Thursday, August 25, 2005

Voting Info

Just a reminder to keep your eyes out for your contract ratification ballot, which should be in your mailbox by Friday at the latest. If you don't get one, let me know ASAP and I'll talk to the office about getting a replacement before next Friday's vote deadline.

To those of you who made it out to last night's contract information meeting at El Torito, thanks for your time. For the folks who couldn't make it, we'll have the second meeting at Yankee Doodles in Woodland Hills (21780 Victory Blvd. at Topanga) from 1 to 2 p.m. tomorrow, Friday, Aug. 26. Pretty much everything you'd need to know has been posted on the blog at, but we'd like to answer any other questions you have before voting.

If you're unable to make that, please let me know and we'll arrange something for you.

And finally, here's something for us to all consider... our counterparts at the San Francisco Chronicle just finished ratifying an awful contract under extremely tough circumstances. You can read the details at It's just a reminder of how tough this industry is right now and how lucky we were to pull off our deal in comparison. While they're two different companies, the contrast between the deep cuts they had to agree to and the improvements we brought home are stunning. I know they worked really hard just to get what they could hold onto, so this is no knock on them at all, but it's definitely something to keep in mind about what's goin' on in the world.

Alrighty, that's all for now... see ya tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Meetings Reminder.

Just in case you missed the email, the time, date and locations of the contract explanation meetings are:

Night Meeting.
Wednesday, August 24, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
El Torito, 6040 Canoga Ave, back room.
Appetizers and drinks will be provided after the meeting.

Lunch Meeting.
Friday, August 26, 1 to 2 p.m.
Yankee Doodles, 21870 Victory Blvd.
Lunch will be provided.

Attendance is not mandatory, but encouraged to spread the word on the contract we've tentatively agreed to. You should get your ballots in the mail soon, which you'll mail back to the union office in anonymous envelopes. All ballots must be returned by Friday, Sept. 2.

Any questions? Ask Brent Hopkins or Kerry Kandel.

Melissa's New Gig

There's still a heck of a lot of stuff going on, but I didn't want to let today's news about Melissa Lalum's promotion to managing editor slip by without mention. This is a very encouraging sign for the direction the paper's taking and one that I think'll help us as a staff.

This gives the paper's #2 job to someone well versed in the presentation and visual side of things, which gives a nice counterpoint to its depth in news. Hopefully, this will lead to more opportunities for photo, art, design and copy folks. Her suggestions turned one of my stories, which was a fairly run-of-the-mill piece on shopping, into a very eye-catching centerpiece recently, so I think this'll be something that should benefit all of us.

And even more importantly from a union standpoint, she's got a great reputation for fairness and willingness to work with the staff. I think most people who've worked with her will tell you she's a good advocate for newsroom folks and that she'll go out of her way to help out when needed. This is exactly the kind of person you want as a manager, so we'll definitely look forward to working with her going forward. Hopefully, this should be another positive step toward our mutual goal of making the paper into a better place for all.

And that'll do it for me for tonight. See ya 'round.


Monday, August 22, 2005

At Last, A Deal

Hey Gang,

So after three years of organizing, months of developing our strategy and nearly eight weeks of bargaining, we reached a tentative agreement today for a new contract at the Daily News. There was a tremendous amount of back and forth discussion, and while we didn't bring home everything we'd have liked, we managed to wrangle a deal that will bring us better wages and a better place to work, all without having to give anything up. It was not easy, it caused considerable heated debate, but at the end of it all, I can honestly say I think it's an improvement.

In short, you did it. We all did-- without your support and time, we'd have never had a prayer of walking away with any improvements. The company knew it was dealing with a new kind of union when we went in, and as a result, we've made things better.

Following your mandate to win better wages and quickly reach a deal, here's what we agreed to today:
- a 2.25% raise for everyone, effective the first pay period after ratification, followed by 2.25% each year in 2006, 2007, 2008. That works out to more than a 9% total increase, plus a merit pool of 0.75% of total wages to be divided up as the company sees fit. Additionally, since the contract expires in March of 2009, that'll get us back into negotiations 6 months earlier next time, making this more valuable than the current contract.
-the company will pay for professional development, conferences and training seminars, with a manager's approval.
-employees who use their personal cell phones for work will receive $10 a month to offset their costs.
-Night shift employees will receive a $3.50 differential per shift, up from the current $3.30.
-Photographers will receive no less than $37.50 per day as their car allowance.

It's also very significant that to get this, we didn't have to give anything away-- this made negotiating difficult because we were doing all the getting and none of giving, but it's definitely satisfying to see that there was no price attached to moving forward.

The only issue still unresolved is the minimum mileage reimbursement for employees who use their cars for work, which we're seeking to get set at at least 32.5 cents per mile. That's currently being debated on the company's side and we hope they'll see that we've been more than reasonable, but we didn't want to hold up everyone's raises on a minor issue. As soon as we get word on that, we'll let you know.

So what does this all mean? It's not perfect, but it represents major progress. Before we began bargaining, Dave Butler threatened that the company might want to cut wages if we didn't bow to his request to extend the old contract another year. Even in opening stages, they stubbornly clung to small annual percentage increases for wages, which we eventually were able to push upward to a better deal than we had before.

Given the current state of the industry, 2.25% is a pretty good deal, especially as it works out over the course of the total contract. The Newspaper Guild reports that they're seeing contracts with as low as 1.5% raises and the company has made no secret of its wish to go to a strictly merit-based form of compensation that would give you no guaranteed annual increase. While we'd have liked to see a lot better, we knew that this was as far as we could get them to go.

NOTE: The voting information refers to dues-paying union members only. We're happy to discuss the contract with everyone, but to vote, you've got to be a member.


So with that in mind, the next step will be ratifying the contract, which we'll do by mailed secret ballots. They should go out tomorrow, with information on how and where to return them. THEY MUST BE RETURNED NO LATER THAN FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 2.

We'll also be conducting two formal informational meetings to explain the new contract, pretty much covering the stuff I relayed above, in depth. This will be a chance to meet and discuss the deal together with your coworkers, so you can cast an informed ballot. Both will be in Woodland Hills-- sorry for you bureau folks, but if you can't make it, feel free to call me (w: 818-713-3738, c: 310-562-4315), Kerry Kandel (w: 818-713-3746), or Vicki DiPaolo (c: 562-260-8378) from the union and we'll explain as best we can. Heck, if you need it, I'll drive to wherever you want to meet and talk one on one. This is one of the most important times for the union, so we want to make sure everyone's got a good sense for what's up.

The first meeting will be Wednesday, August 24, at 6 p.m. at the El Torito on Canoga and Oxnard. We'll be in the back room and after a discussion session, we'll have some drinks and appetizers. The second meeting will be Friday around lunchtime, but we haven't finalized the location yet-- I'll pass that along ASAP once we find a suitably sized place that can hold a crowd. You don't have to attend to vote, but we encourage everyone who's able to come at least for awhile, so we can spread the word as far as possible.


I know that's a lot of info to take in, so I'll close now with this. While I'm glad that we were able to extract some dollars-- and believe me, you'll never know how frustrating that process is until you sit at that table-- let me say this: this company, and no company, will ever be able to pay you what you're worth.

The people at this paper, whether they're writing the stories, taking the pictures, editing the copy, designing the pages, or anything else, are some of the most talented, hard working, intelligent folks around. They could pay us all a million bucks a year and it still wouldn't come close to rewarding you for the amazing work you do under stressful, challenging conditions. You guys are the absolute best and it's a true pleasure to work with you. Negotiating this deal was not fun, but knowing that by working together we'd all come out better made the whole thing worthwhile.

Thank you for your support, your time, your ears and your eyes. And thanks for giving us someone to fight for-- your strength got us through this and you all deserve tremendous credit for everything you've done.


Monday, August 15, 2005

Negotiations, Round 4 - We're Almost There.

Hey Everybody,

We met today for a fifth time and while we unfortunately haven't reached an agreement yet, we're getting very, very close. Both parties are speaking the same language now, but we haven't quite found the same words we need to put this thing away. Both sides have shown tremendous progress in working toward each other's goal, so we're optimistic that when we meet again Monday, August 22, we'll come away with a deal that both sides can be proud of.

The company sent its vice president of labor relations, Jim Janiga, and human resources director Laurie Knight to bargain, while union vice president Vicki DiPaolo and bargaining committee members Kerry Kandel and Brent Hopkins represented the employees. Since we'd left a wage offer of roughly 3 percent per year for the next three years on the contract on the table when we left off, it was their turn to counter.

Janiga came out hard once again, offering a $15 per week increase in the first year, then 2 percent each of the following two years with a 1 percent merit pool, which is roughly what they're paying now. He said the company would prefer to have a higher merit pool and lower annual increases, noting that it was "reluctantly" going up to 2 percent. He also declined to address our request to increase the night shift differential from its current $3.30 per shift and proposed only to increase the minimum mileage reimbursement to 28 cents per mile. He didn't offer any improvement to the photographers' car allowance, currently set at a minimum of $30 per day.

Since we're following your wishes in trying to wrap this as quickly as possible and get everyone a raise, we requested a break to do some economic calculations. After Kerry reviewed the numbers, we figured that a 2.5 percent annual increase would be the best thing for as many people as possible. Wanting to stay within their stated goal of around a total 3 percent hike, we developed a counter proposal of 2.5 percent for everyone and a merit pool of 0.5 percent, which we think gives them enough money to reward excellent performance but still gives us all the annual security you've told us you want.

We also modified the duration of the proposed contract in a way that we believe will be advantageous to both sides. Janiga doesn't want to bargain in the summer, we want more guaranteed security, so we proposed an expiration date in February of 2009, giving us four 2.5 percent increases, then back to the tables six months after the last raise.

For the night differential, we dropped down to $3.60 per shift, which we felt was reasonable given Jim's past opposition to any improvements. We still believe it's important to give you folks who work at night some kind of recognition for the sacrifice of working that shift, so we're not giving up on that yet. As a final thing, we proposed that the minimum mileage reimbursement not fall below 32.5 cents per mile and that the photographers' car allowance be set at a minimum of $37.50 per day.

So that's what we gave them, which they spent considerable time kicking around. Late in the day, they came back with a counter that showed a little movement, but rather than take anything that both sides weren't happy with, we both agreed to mull things over and meet next week.

"We've reviewed the proposal, but we feel that our last offer was more than reasonable," Vicki told them. "With wages, the 0.5 percent gives you a pool that can accomodate the company's desire to pay merit, but the 2.5 percent gives us the sense of security we need in the scales."

Janiga nodded, then said "I understand your proposal as clearly as you understand ours. Reflect further, we'll do the same. I'd really like to nail this down-- since we're so close-- within the next week."

So that's it for now, guys. We've been impressed with their willingness to move toward what we want so far and share their desire to get things wrapped up quickly. We hope that with one more week of mulling it over, that we'll end up with what we both need.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The New Chief


So we've got a new top dog for the Daily News, as our interim editor-in-chief Ron Kaye becomes the full-time head of the paper. I went and had a chat with him today to see what all he'll be up to as our new leader and came away feeling pretty good about things.

I've had my disagreements with Ron over the years, since we're both pretty hard-headed guys. But with his newfound responsibilities, he seems to be singing a different tune, one that should lead to good things if it's implemented. He says he wants the paper to be more fun, for the staff to come up with more ideas rather than being managed top-down and for there to be more discussion and dialogue in the newsroom. This is the rare time that the management and the union will find themselves in complete agreement.

The Daily News has had trouble changing for a long, long time and it's sorely in need of some energy and good feeling in that newsroom we all report for work in each day. I don't think that the change will come overnight, but Ron seems to have a good idea of what we need to do, so the only trick will be for us to get there together.

Since he says he wants the ideas to rise up from the staff, let's take him up on that. We've got a rare opportunity here with a new guy in the boss chair to pick up the good concepts started under Dave Butler and bring in new ones to pep the place up. It'll be bumpy at times, disagreements will arise, but at least he's pledging to be open to fixing up the parts that need work. He says he wants us to stand up for our work, stand up for what we believe in-- that's great, we should do just that.

This is not the time to be complacent to see how things will change-- it's the time for us to work together to shape this paper we love into a better place. That's always been the mission of this union, regardless of who we're working with as an editor, so let's welcome Ron to his new duties and throw ourselves into our own. If he lives up to his stated goal and we contribute our own ideas along the way, we'll all end up better off.

And that's it for me for now... more news to follow.


Oh, while it's fresh on my mind, if you missed him today, our very own Josh Kleinbaum made an appearance on Nancy Grace's CNN show to provide info on this bizarre Iryna Singerman story. Looking sharp, Josh-- nice work on both the story and the appearance.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Negotiations, Round 4

The delicate dance between the company and the union continued today, as we met for our fourth session of contract negotiations. While we adjourned without reaching a deal, scheduling to meet again on Monday, August 15, the two sides moved a lot closer and struck a tone that gave us optimism that we'll soon have a better contract in hand.

This was the first session without Dave Butler on the company's side, with only human resources director Laurie Knight and vice president of labor relations Jim Janiga bargaining for the Daily News. Bargaining team members Kerry Kandel, Brent Hopkins and union vice president Vicki DiPaolo took the union side. While they didn't exactly enthusiastically embrace our proposals, the company showed some movement and gave us a better idea of what they're looking for.

Since they made it clear that our 6 percent annual raises for the next three years was out of their ballpark and that they were more interested of something around 2.5 percent, we began with a modified proposal. We asked for an immediate $2,400 annual raise for everyone ($50 per week), followed by two years of 4 percent annual increases. Since they've argued in the past that the current system discriminates against lower paid workers, this would give them a greater percentage boost up front, then everyone would enjoy similar raises in the future.

In addition, we adjusted our mileage reimbursement request to 35 cents per mile, and kept our requests for that the company add one more floating holiday, increase the night differential of $4 per shift and raise the photographers' car allowance to $40 per day. We also kept firm that employees who use their cell phones for work receive $10 a month to offset the costs.

Janiga did not respond well to the wage proposal, choosing to look at the lowest paid workers' percentage increase and complaining that it would be a 13% hike. He suggested that altering the wage scales would have no affect on recruiting, that the Daily News had trouble attracting people from out of state because of the high cost of living. We disagreed, pointing out that managers have said quite pointedly that they're unable to attract the type of talent the paper requires with the wage framework it offers.

And sure, people don't want to deal with California cost of living if they're not going to be paid well.

"A $50 (per week) increase in scale wouldn't make a difference if someone wants to come here," he said. "Even if it did, we couldn't afford to pay it. We're dealing with a budget of less than 3 percent for raises and a historical pattern of less than 3 percent. I'm not suggesting that your aims aren't noble, but they're so far out of the realm of possibility that we'd be here forever."

He countered with a three years of annual wage increases of 1.5 percent, with the existing merit pool of 1 percent. Once again, he offered to increase the minimum mileage rate to 28 cents, with no adjustment to the photographers' allowance, no night shift increase and no holiday. For the first time, however, he offered $10 a month for cell phone reimbursement.

While this wasn't what we were hoping to hear, it was a small step in the right direction-- and we're glad he recognizes that the union has noble aims. But since we're interested in reaching an agreement swiftly with an improvement in wages (as per your requests), we decided to run some numbers of our own to see how we could get a little closer to his numbers while still making progress for everyone.

So here's what we came up with, the offer that's currently sitting on the table. We asked the company for an immediate raise of $1,200 ($25 per week), with 3 percent annual raises for the following two years. That pencils out to around 3 percent for everyone in the first year, though the low wage earners will feel a slightly better bump-- and they're the ones who need it most drastically.

We also reluctantly dropped our floating holiday request, modified our night differential request to $3.75 per shift and set the minimum mileage reimbursement to 32.5 cents per mile.

We did, however, stand on the $40 per day request for the photographers' car allowance. While other employees have some flexibility on how they use their cars, the photo crew does not. We used all the arguments that you gave us, pointing out that you can't phone in a photo, you've got to take it no matter what the circumstances and where the location ends up. We talked about the abuse you put into your vehicles, all because you want to do the best job you possibly can.

And something strange happened-- Janiga agreed. Usually, they just look at the numbers and all the arguments in the world won't convince them, just dollars. While he said they'd have to do the math and that he wasn't promising any increases, he said something that was rather unusual.

"That's the best argument I've ever heard for why the photographers deserve to be paid differently from everyone else," he said. "If there's a fire, they don't just drive down the road, they take the fire road. If it's flooded, well, they just keep going."

Who knows what he'll come back with, but for all of you who responded to our questions about the photo allowance, take heart. Your answers made that difference and finally struck a chord. Let's hope that Janiga will be more sympathetic when he does his arithmetic back at the office.

So that's where we're at, folks. We've got a little more than a week for them to mull it over, but as we ended, they definitely seemed like they were receptive to what we're asking for. There'll undoubtably be some more back and forth, but it feels like we're on the right track.

And that's because of you guys-- the company knows of our growing strength, they know that you're passionate and involved. Each thing that we proposed came from members, each argument we've employed was supplied by you folks. When we have this deal, hopefully soon, we'll have you to thank.

Thanks for your time and should you need anything else, let Kerry, Brent or Vicki know what you need.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Dave Butler's Departure

Hey Gang,

I'm guessing most of you have heard the news already, but for those of you out of the office, I wanted to pass along what's going on and how it'll affect us. In a surprise announcement, Dave Butler will be leaving the Daily News immediately to become editor and publisher of the recently acquired Detroit News. He's already there, with a brief return on Monday to gather his things and to say goodbye.

During the afternoon meeting, Ron Kaye announced that there'd be a nationwide search for a replacement using headhunters, as well as the chance for promotion internally within MediaNews. Until one is found-- and he said he didn't know how long it'll take-- he'll serve as interim editor-in-chief of the Daily News.

This is clearly going to make for some big changes here at the paper, though how dramatic and widespread they'll be remains to be seen. Dave's been at the helm for more than eight years, making him one of the few top editors that most of us have dealt with. He's overseen some big structural changes at the paper, as well as ushered in the current labor-management relationship.

In his absence, the company has said that it plans to continue contract negotiations. We're scheduled to bargain again on Friday and I'm trying to arrange a meeting with Jim Janiga to see how this will affect talks and other matters. I'll update you all on that info as soon as I have it.

Personally, I've usually enjoyed a very constructive working relationship with Dave. While we had our disagreements and frustrations-- I'm sure he was rarely thrilled when I was occupying the chair across from him-- on the whole, he was very good about making sure the company lived up to its end of the bargain in how it treated its employees. He kept a copy of the contract in his top drawer and while we sometimes had different interpretations of how it should be applied, I always appreciated his willingness to listen to our concerns. For that, we should all wish him well and hope that his successor will carry on that tradition.

Until that person arrives, Ron said that he wants the paper to be a more fun place to work, something we definitely need. He spoke today of the need for change and his interest in improving morale and effectiveness, so when he hands it over to the new editor it'll be a better place. That's a goal we can all agree with and I think we should all take him up on that offer-- don't be afraid to speak up and to let him know what you think. I've spoken to him in the past about some of the morale issues we face and he says he's interested in addressing what he can, so I think it'll be to all of our benefit to work with him to work on what we can.

In the transition period, there's bound to be some confusion about how things are going to work out. If you've got issues, bring them up with your manager and with us-- just because there's a new person in the editor's chair doesn't change their responsibilities to the paper and its employees.

Ultimately, we can hope to work with whoever ends up leading the Daily News to build on what we've already done. There's plenty of work left to do, but this should be an opportunity to work for something even better for everyone. We'll look forward to working with the new leader to make this paper a better place to work for everyone.

That's it for now, I'll keep ya posted with whatever I hear as soon as I can. In the meantime, wish us luck on Friday-- we hope to have a deal soon. If there's anything else you need, please let us know and we'll see what we can do.