Monday, May 24, 2010

Memphis Newspaper Guild Votes to Ratify Contract

Posted By on Mon, May 24, 2010 at 2:52 PM

The Memphis Newspaper Guild voted Saturday to ratify the "final" contract offer from The Commercial Appeal. Guild president Daniel Connolly issued the following statements on the Guild website, one to the public and one to members:

To the public:

Members of the Memphis Newspaper Guild, the largest labor union at The Commercial Appeal, have voted in favor of a new three-year contract that gives the company the right to unlimited outsourcing.

This may surprise some of you. As you know, we have been campaigning publicly against outsourcing. But we faced a situation in which the company could have imposed the outsourcing language on us even if we had voted against the contract. And if we had voted no, the very existence of our union was at risk.

I want to thank everyone from the public who spoke out in favor of local news and local jobs. You DID make a difference. Without your help, we doubt that we would have the improvements that we did win (especially the evergreen clause, as described below).

We thank you again.

-Daniel The following message went out to members:

All,

Guild members have voted 43 to 7 to approve a new three-year contract. That number includes absentee ballots and those who voted at the Saturday, May 22 meeting.

The margin of victory wasn't close, so we won't be counting any absentee ballots that arrive late. The pay raises will kick in shortly after we sign the contract. We don't have an exact date.

The yes vote gives us a chance to rebuild and fight another day.

In theory, the company could outsource every job. But as long as there are any Guild-covered workers left at The Commercial Appeal, their lives will be better because the union exists.

Here is why The Guild's leadership recommended a yes vote:

-We have three years to regroup and rebuild. We have been spending huge sums on legal fees and other costs related to contract bargaining. We can start saving money again and focus on building long-term strength.

-We are protected from a decertification action for the three year term of the contract. (A decertification action is an official effort to destroy the union.)

-We keep the evergreen clause, which says the old contract will remain in effect during negotiations. In the long term, that's an extremely important item for the survival of the union. The company had fought to take it away, but we managed to keep it.

-Some workers will receive pay raises.

-If there is outsourcing, we will still be able to bargain for the best possible package for those who lose their jobs. We'll have advance notice and may lobby against the action.

-Anyone who loses a job to outsourcing will receive a small, one-time payment in addition to normal severance that comes from the worker's pension fund.

-We will still have our grievance and arbitration process. When employees have problems with the company, we will be able to take the matter to a neutral third party for a decision. This is a benefit that doesn't exist in most American workplaces.

If we had voted no, the company could have simply implemented its last proposal, including the unlimited outsourcing and without all of the benefits noted above. We would have been risking the existence of the labor union in exchange for improvements that might never come.

As attorney Sam Morris told those who came to Saturday's meeting, there was no guarantee that the company would ever meet with us again if we voted no.

We'll be putting out more information about the contract in the next few days.

In the meantime, I want to personally thank everyone who took part in this lengthy bargaining process, especially those who worked on it for years before I arrived. It's been a long road, and we're finally at the end.

-Daniel Connolly

Read the Flyer's cover story on the negotiations.

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