Ho! Ho! Ho!

Dec 18, 2018 by

Companies that employ union and nonunion workers, work tirelessly to keep the two factions separated.  The last thing they want is everyone hanging out together and their nonunion workers begin to think about organizing (“Hey Boss, how come the union guys get…?”).  This is especially true if the employer has more than one workplace (like a media chain).  Those employers send not so subtle messages to nonunion workers that they have it BETTER than their union counterparts.  And to make that point, they will give them little gifts, gifts they will deny their union workers (“See, you non-organized guys are our favorite – that’s why we treat you better!”).

Union negotiators understand this and, to combat it, try to get “me too” clauses inserted into their collective bargaining agreements.  Such provisions mandate that if a company decides to give one segment of its employees a gift, it has to give the employees covered by the agreement that same gift (hence the term “me too”).  It goes without saying, then, that corporations hate such provisions and fight against including them in their union contracts.  To that point, The United Media Guild just negotiated a new three year agreement at KSDK-TV and, thanks to our hard working unit chair (shout out to Phil Evans!), I just received this notice:




December 17, 2018

Shannon Duffy

Administrative Officer

United Media Guild

TNG-CWA Local 36047


Re:       One-time discretionary bonus payment


Dear Shannon:


Today, TEGNA announced a 2018 one-time discretionary bonus payment of $500.00 for current regular full-time and part-time non-bargaining unit employees, who are not part of an existing annual bonus program (regular full-time and part-time employees newly hired in 2018 will receive a pro-rated 2018 on-time discretionary bonus payment).  This discretionary bonus will be paid to employees on December 21, 2018 and will be subject to applicable state and federal taxes, along with any 401(k) contributions.


Pursuant to the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, we are providing this one-time bonus to the Guild bargaining unit members.


Please advise if you have any questions or if you wish to discuss.


*           *          *          *          *


(And I heard Phil exclaim ‘ere he rode out of sight,

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all my union sisters and brothers here’s a nice check!”)



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Rumor Control (STL Post Dispatch Unit)

Nov 15, 2013 by

There’s a rumor circulating that Lee plans to cut pension benefits.  Retirees are calling the Guild to ask about it.

Here’s the truth:  Lee can’t cut our pension benefits.  That would be illegal.  Even if Lee goes broke, we won’t lose our pensions.

I write a column on personal finance for the Post-Dispatch.  Here’s part of a piece on pensions that I wrote last year.  I’ve updated the dollar amounts and made a couple of other changes to fit our situation as Guild members.

*          *          *

Under federal law, private employers can’t take back pension benefits that workers have already earned. But employers do go broke.

In a bankruptcy, companies try to weasel out of pension and retiree health obligations, and courts usually let them.

So in 1974, Congress created a federal agency to insure private-sector pensions. If a pension sponsor goes belly up – as 152 did last year – the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. keeps the checks coming.

The federal agency limits its guarantee to $4,488 per month for people 65 years old.  That number assumes that the employee is married and opted for his (or her) spouse to get half his pension upon his death.  Nobody in the Guild gets a pension that large.  The guaranteed amount drops with age, with a 60 year old guaranteed $3,213.  Even that amount is bigger than a Guild pension.   That’s fine for underpaid reporters like me, but not for airline pilots and corporate muckety-mucks.

The PBGC has its own problems. It can pay its bills for years to come, but it is $26 billion short on its long-term funding needs. If the agency kitty ever ran dry, the betting is that Congress would bail it out, rather than face mobs of angry retirees swinging their canes.

“There’s very little risk that pensioners would lose out, ” says Jeffrey Brown, finance professor and Director of Center for Business & Public Policy at the University of Illinois. “Taxpayers will ultimately be on the hook.”

For private workers, the biggest worry involves pension freezes and terminations. Normally, your pension check grows with your years of service and rising salary over time. In a freeze, you keep what you’ve earned so far but get nothing for pay and service going forward.

As you recall, our leaders in Davenport, having nearly drown the company in debt, torpedoed the stock price, rung up huge losses and demolished the quality of our newspaper through layoffs, decided to compensate for such failures by freezing our pensions in 2010.

However they can’t reduce what we earned before the freeze (and the pension amount still rises with our age as we approach 65)

Jim Gallagher

former board member and local treasurer

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Post-Dispatch business writer Jim Gallagher weighs in on the announced changes to Lee’s 401-K

Aug 30, 2013 by

Fellow Guild members and Lee employees:

The Guild has been getting a lot of questions from members about changes to our Lee 401(k) plan.  I write our Sunday personal finance column at the Post-Dispatch, so I thought I might share some thoughts with my fellow employees.

Unless you let the plan know otherwise, all of your 401(k) money will soon be moved to the “target date” fund closest to date you turn 65.  The deadline for making a decision was last Friday.  It’s no big deal if you missed it.  Once the switch takes place, you can change back to your old funds if you like.

What Lee is doing is pretty unusual in the retirement plan trade.  Intel did something similar a while back, but few companies are so obviously trying to move employees into the target date option.

Basically, this is Mother Lee telling you how you should invest your money.  In this instance, I think that mother really does know best.

I say this despite my belief that our current top leaders in Davenport have made serious mistakes in other areas that have needlessly damaged the Post-Dispatch franchise and its employees.

I like target date funds for employees who aren’t investment pros.  I explain why in my Sunday column on target date funds, and here’s the link.


The upshot is that, unless you really know what you’re doing with investments, better let the target date manager run the show for you.

Rather than repeat the column here, let’s discuss the Lee plan options.

Lee offers JP Morgan SmartRetirement target date funds. They get pretty good ratings from people who study these things.

BrightScope, a company that helps companies design 401(k) plans, puts the SmartRetirement plans among its “top” target date funds.

Morningstar, an independent analysis firm specializing in mutual funds, rates SmartRetirement fund “silver,” the second highest of five ratings.

Morningstar notes that the funds are a bit more conservative than most as retirement dates draw close. Some other quotes:

“The experienced management team has proved itself adept at staying on top of both these smaller tweaks and larger forces that affect the ultimate success of a target-date series.”

On performance: “Over the past five years through June, 2013, all of the SmartRetirement funds rank in their categories’ top decile on a risk adjusted basis. Calendar year 2012 represented a big rebound from a disappointing 2011 when poor tactical moves hurt the funds. The lineup held up relatively well in 2008 and excelled in the vastly different 2009 and 2010 markets. It’s been more of a slog in 2013, but the funds have held up relatively well.”

On process: “JP Morgan has concluded that investors don’t always follow conventional retirement savings wisdom. As a result the glide path near retirement has been more conservative than the norm to focus on maintaining maximum income throughout retirement. The glide path diverges into asset classes such as REITs, (that’s real estate) high-yield bonds, commodities and emerging markets debt. The underlying equity fund roster features a mix of fundamental, quantitative and behavioral-finance driven funds. Management has done well to select many consistent performers from the JP Morgan universe.”

I put the full Morningstar report on the Guild bulletin board in the newsroom. I’ll get it up to the sixth floor on Monday.

That’s the good stuff. Here’s the bad. The damn expense ratios are high for the far-out target date funds aimed at younger workers – 1.06 and 1.07 percent. The near-dated funds are better at 0.67 and 0.79. Our superiors up in Davenport ought to be able to negotiate for a bigger discount. After all, these are large institutional-class funds, and they don’t cost much to run.

Memo to Davenport: Nationally, the average cost for a target date fund is about 0.58 And Vanguard offers direct-to-the-public target funds for 0.16 and 0.18 percent.

The expense ratio is the percent of your money that the fund managers take for their own profit and to cover the expense of running the fund.

That said, some other funds in the Lee plan are higher; For instance, the Wells Fargo small cap fund swipes 1.42 percent.

Vanguard uses a passive strategy, relying on funds that simply track stock and bond indexes, rather than employing very-well paid people to try to beat the indexes. That’s why they are so cheap.

Below is a link to a comparison of fund performance as calculated by Morningstar. The plus/minus is a measure of riskiness compared to similar funds. It also shows how the fund did compared to others in the same category:

JP Morgan 2015 fund

The retirement plan certainly affects our working conditions. If we have concerns about the company’s recent action, its fund selections or its lack of generosity, we may as a group bring them to Lee’s attention through collective action.

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Facts about retiree settlement checks

Oct 11, 2012 by


Please note that your settlement check envelope, which should be arriving any minute, looks EXACTLY like your pension check stub envelope.  DON’T THROW IT AWAY – there’s a check inside!


Also, contrary to what we had been told, Lee did NOT mail out two separate checks; taxable and nontaxable amounts were combined in one check.  There is, however, a breakdown on the stub that denotes the amount that was taxed and non-taxed.


Finally, as discussed at the retiree meetings, the portion of your settlement that is NOT reimbursement for medical expenses, is treated as payroll earnings for tax withholding purposes.   The company is legally obligated to withhold these taxes from any portion that is not a reimbursement.


We hope this information is helpful.

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The check is in the mail

Sep 26, 2012 by

Guild retirees should be interested to know that, today, we were informed that Lee is mailing out settlement checks to our 248 retirees who were part of the retiree medical lawsuit.  You should also be aware that all living retirees who signed a release will receive an additional $143.50 (before taxes) because, in going through the company’s list of those eligible to receive retiree medical benefits, Mary found two who were not, in fact, entitled to receive any and the Executive Committee voted to reallocate that money by dividing it equally among the group.


All parties will receive an actual check – there will not be any direct deposit.   If, you have not received your check by this time next week, please contact this office and we will help you track it down.


Thank you all for your strength, solidarity and patience during this lengthy process.   Together, we have once again proven that union membership doesn’t cost – IT PAYS!


Mary Casey

Shannon Duffy

UMG Executive Committee



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Settlement in retiree medical lawsuit – mailing and meetings to follow

Aug 4, 2012 by

The United Media Guild, TNG-CWA, Local  36047, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, LLC and Lee Enterprises, Incorporated, have reached a settlement regarding the Guild’s claim for vested lifetime retiree health care benefits. The parties believe the settlement is a fair one and appreciate the work on both sides to reach a resolution.


Mailings have gone out to blue and yellow contract retirees with details and meetings have been scheduled for Wednesday, August 8 at 11:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. in the Guild’s office building in conference room 1030.  Any retiree with questions can come and have the settlement explained in detail and our attorney, Barbara Camens will also be present to answer any legal questions.


The next day, Thursday, August 9, the Guild will hold a general membership meeting – again in conference room 1030 – for current members who wish to have the settlement explained.  That meeting is scheduled for noon.






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