The executive committee of the Post-Dispatch unit of the United Media Guild has been working over the past two weeks on the proposal by Lee management that asks our members to approve a plan that calls for each of our members to accept two weeks of furlough — which means two weeks without pay.
The company proposal was made and sent to everyone on Feb. 21. As stated by the company, one week would have to be taken by the end of April and the other by Sept. 23. Both weeks can be taken before April 30.
Employees’ health and other benefits would continue through the furlough period. The furlough could be taken as individual days, one week at a time or two weeks together (which is the only way it can be done by anyone who wants to qualify for Missouri unemployment). When it comes to scheduling specific times for the furloughs, the company retains the right to schedule according to staffing needs and could refuse a request if too many people ask for the same weeks. They have said that preference will be given on basis of seniority.
On Feb. 23, in response to Lee’s request, the union made a proposal that asked for:
— The 4% pay we would lose from being furloughed to be added to the raise due in 2024.
— A change in job classifications that would protect more workers.
— A two-year moratorium on any layoffs.
This proposal was made after Lee management gave every indication that some negotiation, some give and take, was possible.
But then on Feb. 27, the company simply rejected our proposal out of hand and made no counter-offers whatsoever.
So on March 1, the P-D executive committee met again to talk about the situation, which included a discussion about their flat refusal to make any counter offers.
— The company’s refusal to offer even minimal changes in job classifications clearly shows they still prefer to have Guild members broken off into small departments, several of them with only one or two people. This is far more threatening to long-time employees and also makes it easier for the company to cut jobs by eliminating departments.
— Declining to give back in 2024 any of money they want from us now means that most of the pay increases that the Guild fought for and secured in 2021 would go for naught. And few things would make Lee happier than to know that during future contract talks, they could begrudgingly agree to raises — and then simply come back to Guild members later and get that money back by saying they needed furloughs. The chance of Guild members ever getting any pay raise at the Post-Dispatch would be severely threatened by the approval of Lee’s furlough plan.
— Finally, it is indescribably negative that Lee was not willing to stipulate in a counter-offer that there would be no layoffs, even between now and the end of the furlough period. They want to retain the right to lower your salary and lay people off in the same period.
The Executive Committee had the right to reject this offer. But it was unanimously decided that since our strength comes from all of our members, then so should this decision.
That is why we voted to put this offer before the Post-Dispatch Guild unit on Wednesday, March 8 — with the strongest possible recommendation that Lee’s proposal be REJECTED.
Our members at the P-D will receive a voting link via email on March 8. Members who do not receive a link that morning should request one from UMG President Jeff Gordon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
United Media Guild