Sunday, September 04, 2005

Today and the Future


Starting today, we're all getting a raise. The results of the contract ratification vote came back on Friday and I'm pleased to announce they were a stunningly unanimous 'yes.' This is extremely rare, to have everyone on the same page on a contract vote, something that demonstrates that this is a different bunch here. Somehow it's quite fitting that it worked out that our new contract starts off on Labor Day weekend, a day that unions fought for long ago to remind America of the need for fair working conditions.

We'll be supplying everyone with a copy of the new contract, but in the meantime, let me review the highlights. Most importantly, we'll all enjoy a 2.25 percent annual raise for the next three and a half years, working out to more than 9 percent over the life of the contract, and the company still has the requirement to pay merit on top of that. Night shift folks will get a bump in their differential from $3.30 per night to $3.50. People who use their cell phones for work will get $120 a year to offset your bills. If you want to attend professional conferences or training, with a manager's approval, the company will now foot the bill.

We gave away absolutely nothing.

There was also an enhancement that I misstated in the last series of emails, and while I'm sorry I made the mistake, I'm glad it worked out this way. Photographers will now get $37.50 per day in car allowance, rather than the $35 or so you were getting before-- due to a miscommunication, we thought we were only able to maintain the current level, but it turns out we were able to get a significant increase. This is an unprecedented boost in your compensation, something that would not have been possible without your intelligent, passionate arguments for why you deserved it.

Everyone who's a member of this fine union deserves credit for these victories, but let me single out a few who went above and beyond in putting them together.

First off, we cannot thank Kerry Kandel enough for her amazing work at the bargaining table. When negotiating, she had a clear, decisive voice that the company was rarely able to dispute or criticize. Behind closed doors, she was a whiz with a Casio calculator, running numbers with ease to figure out exactly what deals were fair and what we could hope for. For the past three years, she's been one of our staunchest, most passionate supporters and with her sharp mind, we're immeasurably stronger and smarter as a union.

Secondly, Vicki DiPaolo, vice president of CWA 9400, has done a fantastic job in helping us grow from a struggling group of idealists into a larger, more capable union able to serve the folks who make the Daily News the great paper that it is. As we've grown, she's been able to deliver a fantastic amount of support from the local, without which, we could not have gotten here. Just as importantly, her strong presence at the table, good advice behind the scenes and strong rapport with the company's negotiators went a very long way in delivering this deal.

Also, every member of the Contract Committee, who gave up their nights and free time to help bring in new members and craft our strategy, deserves our thanks. Lisa, Jason, Ben, Josh, Rachel, Evan, Alex, and up until the day she departed for a better gig in Texas, Jennifer, worked incredibly hard to put our plans in motion. John McCoy helped deliver a key strategic bargaining chip at the table, one which we'll be talking about frequently in coming months. Richard Perkins, who's only been a member for a few months, has become an invaluable set of eyes and ears. Fred Shuster spoke up and pushed us to always strive for something better. Evan Yee showed us the way to go with his years of dedicated stewardship and service. And Dana Bartholomew, who gnashed his teeth mightily and served as the great champion of the cell phone reimbursement, is directly responsible for that $120 bucks you phone users will be getting.

If I've forgotten anyone, it's not because you didn't make a difference; it's that I ain't slept much lately and that you're all such hard workers, it's difficult to single people out of a group where everyone pitches in.

But that's not it-- while people like the Contract Committee and especially Kerry and I may be the face of the union, everyone in this group is its heart. To everyone who's ever gone to a meeting, offered up an idea, lent us their name or paid their dues, we owe this to you. You're the ones who give us strength, who bring people in, who make us the union that we've become. It doesn't matter how you show your support-- it's the fact that you give it so unselfishly that has gotten us here. I truly mean it when I say that you guys are the finest bunch of cohorts and coworkers anyone could hope for. It's a pleasure to come to work with you every day and you should all congratulate yourselves for making this a better place.

So now that our biggest battle's out of the way, where to go from here? Josh Kleinbaum answered that at one of our contract explanation meetings: "I know this is the best deal we could have gotten and under the circumstances, I'm happy to have it," he said. "But I think we've got to start looking ahead so we can get a better one next time around. We can do better than this."

He's exactly right. While we should be proud of the deal we've won for everyone, we should never get complacent and will always need to find ways to make this union more responsive and this job better. The 2.25 percent raise was great under the conditions we were operating under, but it's nowhere near enough for people to get by in these living conditions. Next time around, we've got to be bigger, stronger and smarter to get the company to pay people closer to what they deserve.

So we'll enjoy what we've won for a little bit, celebrate our successes and spread the word to the people who haven't climbed aboard yet. Then we'll go right back to work. The Daily News is clearly a better place to work than it was three years ago, but there's still much to be done. We'll change the ways we reach out to people, try new things, maintain the higher profile we've developed due to your efforts. Keep at it, guys, we're doing good stuff, but we can't let up.

When Kerry and I went into Ron Kaye's office on Friday to inform him that the contract had been ratified, he did something very interesting. He offered congratulations and renewed his pledge to work with us to continue improving the relationship here between management and employees. Manangement's usually less than thrilled to be parting with money, especially when it's because a strong union's squeezed it out of the company's wallet. But here, we've got a guy who seems to understand that the paper's changing and becoming a better place for all of us-- that's something we hope to maintain and improve for years to come.

I know I've gone on for long enough, so I'll shut up now and let you guys get on with your contractually mandated long weekend (sorry, couldn't resist that little plug there). So let me end with this: thank you to every one of you. You were there for us when we needed it most and we'll always be there for you, too.



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