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.