Friday, April 25, 2008

Next to No Progress In News-Press/Union Negotiations

Further collective bargaining negotiations between Wendy McCaw's News-Press and the Graphics Communications Conference of the Teamsters Union took place over two days at the beginning of this month, and one thing has become evident; McCaw still wants to run her business as if the union does not exist.

Photo by Missy Olson of News-Press Booth at current S.B. Fair.

I have seen the letters that Union Negotiator Nick Caruso has sent to union members at the News-Press updating them on the status of negotiations as well as a letter Caruso sent to McCaw herself that is responsive to a memo that she circulated to newsroom employees. I also understand that Caruso has sent a letter to Michael Zinser, the attorney who is the chief negotiator at the bargaining table on behalf of the News-Press however, I have not seen a copy of that letter.

Probably the most absurd of the positions being advanced by the News-Press at the bargaining table is it's rejection of the union's proposal that employee grievances be arbitrated by a neutral party and instead that any grievances against the paper are to be ultimately decided by McCaw.

As Caruso put it in his letter to employees:

If Management believes that in the end it has the final say on disputes regarding interpretation of the parties' Agreement, there would be no motivation to resolve a dispute on any terms other than those preferred by the Publisher. Under the Employer's proposal, the contractual grievance procedure could end by the Publisher simply denying a violation has occurred.

At the bargaining table, the News-Press responded to the union's proposal for neutral third-party arbitration of grievances by stating:

Thousands and thousands of employers have written procedures for resolving workplace disputes without the concept of just cause and arbitration.

Actually I'm familiar with such a policy. That's the old "my way or the highway" rule.

In truth, it's apparent that McCaw wants to persist with having the ability to fire or discipline employees without having to bother to explain herself or to have to justify her actions. Wendy, you have a union now. Those days are over.

Another sticking point in negotiations has been the topic of "productivity standards" with the News-Press rejecting a proposal that "complexity of a story" be one of the considerations in determining whether a newsroom employee was producing a sufficient amount of work. That position caused one member of union's negotiating committee to observe. "I guess the world is lucky that Woodward and Bernstein didn't work for the current News-Press."

No, I don't think either Woodward or Bernstein would have thrived under the current atmosphere at Wendy McCaw's News-Press.

By the way, the News-Press' "team" at the bargaining table has been comprised of Zinser, Dugan Kelly, an attorney with Barry Cappello's firm, associate editor Scott Steepleton and at least on one occasion, editorial page editor Travis Armstrong, in place of Steepleton.