Post-Dispatch members ratify new agreement

Nov 16, 2018 by

By a tally of 78-4, Post-Dispatch members ratified a new three-year agreement which will run through September 30, 2021.  The new agreement calls for 2% wage increases in the first and third years, free parking (which had suddenly become important when the paper sold the building) and increased seniority protections (fewer exemptions are now allowed in each department when layoffs occur).  There is also a proviso for our sales representatives to receive $100 if they are not given their period goals before the start of the actual period.  The agreement increased the percentage of premium share for Guild members from 30% to 35% and it also increased the probationary period for new hires from nine months to one year.

While the wage increases are not large, after this contract our members will have received a 10% increase over six years and in an industry obsessed with declining advertising revenues and reducing labor costs, the election results convey the confidence of Post-Dispatch members that their bargaining team secured the best possible deal.

Negotiations took place over a two week period in St. Louis.  They were preceded by conversations in the workplace, meetings with individuals in every area and the distribution of surveys which were collected and tallied.  Thanks go out to all those who gave up their time to take part in this effort.   Special shout out to Joe Holleman, Post-Dispatch unit chair for shepherding the many moving parts.

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UMG reaches tentative agreement at Post-Dispatch

Nov 9, 2018 by

The United Media Guild’s expedited bargaining with the Post-Dispatch produced a three-year contract proposal. We will vote on this Thursday, Nov. 15, at 5 p.m. in Room 205 at the Post-Dispatch.

Here are the basics of the proposal:

We Get

  • The company will provide free parking through the three-year contract.  Reserved parking would have cost our members $65 per month and open parking would have cost $55 per month.
  • The company can exempt no more than 15 percent of advertising department employees and 15 percent of editorial department employees from the seniority ranking for layoffs. This reduces the maximum number of “skips” from 16 to 10 in the newsroom and from 16 to 6 in advertising. Previously the company could use all of its skips in one area or the other, as it did in the newsroom earlier this year.
  • The pay scale for hourly employees and the base pay for salespersons will increase 2 percent in January, 2019 and 2 percent in January, 2021. (There is no increase in 2020).
  • Any advertising sales employee who doesn’t receive goals by the first day of a commission period will receive $100.
  • The rest of our protections remain as are, including vacation allotment, holidays, sick days, personal days, severance, IRS rate mileage, cell phone reimbursement, daily overtime, company cars for photographers and the assorted pay differentials (filling in for supervisors, working in a higher classification, reporters working editing shifts.)

Company Gets

  • The probationary period for employees extended from nine months to 12 months.
  • Employees can be regularly assigned to perform job duties in another classification for the duration of the contract. But the employee won’t change classifications unless a transfer is mutually agreed upon. Previously an employee could return to the original classification after 12 months.
  • Medical insurance premium rates will remain flat for 2019, but the employee share of the premium will increase from 30 percent to 35 percent. This creates the following increases per pay period:

Individual high-deductible: $11.43.
Individual traditional: $13.82
Individual plus children high-deductible: $21.70
Individual plus spouse high-deductible: $22.81
Individual plus children traditional: $24.97
Individual plus spouse traditional: $27.48
Family high-deductible: $34.30
Family traditional: $38.42

Bottom line

This contract prevents paid parking, reduces the company’s ability to circumvent seniority during layoffs and gives most of our members more money. This contract, combined with the previous contract, would result in five 2-percent raises in six years.

We believe this offer addressed our main concerns. Given the state of the industry – with its year-to-year revenue losses and accompanying layoffs – we believe this is a decent offer. The company would have offered a bit more financially had we agreed to more seniority exemptions.

If this upcoming vote fails

Then we move to traditional long-form bargaining. That could drag on for a year or more with the company trying to pick off some of our other protections while the Guild rallies support with internal and external mobilizing. Or the company could try to race toward the “last, best and final” contract offer and the threat of a bargaining impasse. At our ratification meeting we can discuss all the possible ramifications of that.

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In warning about crossing lines, Robberson does just that.

Oct 27, 2017 by

 

Our union has no problem with a newspaper columnist expressing an opinion, for that is the purpose of an editorial section. But Tod Robberson’s decision to run a recent column criticizing colleagues for their use of social media brings up several other matters — ones he either failed to consider or ones he willfully ignored:

First, is this how we now resolve potential policy issues that arise between management and workers, by running columns in the newspaper?

Since Mr. Robberson did not see fit to contact the union which represents workers he criticized, then please allow our union similar space to rebut the assertions he made, without any real evidence, that some of our behavior violated established Post-Dispatch policies.

Or should we assume that from now on, the effective, decades-old method of labor and management sitting down at a table to iron out differences has given way to management, by Robberson fiat, that alleges wrongdoing and policy violations and then flies directly into the face of the objectivity he purports to cherish by not allowing the people we represent to respond in their own defense?

Also, our union has faithfully instructed its members that while we may at times have problems with management policies and practices, we should never resort to “denigrating the product.” But how are we supposed to adhere to that policy, or why should we, when it’s clear that Mr. Robberson sees it altogether fitting to denigrate the journalists who cover, report, write, photograph and edit that product?

Mr. Robberson, by his use of the phrase “reporters and photographers” omits the non-union employees using social media and singles out Guild members in his screed.  We find this troubling and wonder just how deliberate his choice of words are.

Mr. Robberson has warned us about crossing lines by crossing lines himself, and applies a double standard in delivering his sermon about journalistic standards.

In his column, Mr. Robberson declares that he is from the “country of Journalism.” We hope that sometime in the near future, he also opts to reside in the “state of Fairness.”

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Post-Dispatch offers enhanced severance to UMG members

Feb 3, 2017 by

The Post-Dispatch is offering Guild members with at least 10 years of service during this fiscal year — and who will be 55 years or older during this fiscal year — an opportunity to collect enhanced severance of up to 39 weeks to leave.

As you may recall, the Guild agreed to scale back severance pay for voluntary departures in our current collective bargaining agreement. It is currently capped at 26 weeks.

The company recently made the 39-week severance offer to non-represented employees. Based on interest from some of our members, the company decided to make the same offer to the Guild on a one-time, non-precedent, non-referral basis. The Guild accepted.

Here are some important details:

There are 44 Guild members eligible for this severance. The company is looking for up to 10 volunteers.

Volunteers would get two weeks of severance pay for every year of service, up to the 39 weeks of pay. Under the contract, newer employees only get one week of severance for every year of service. The company offered two weeks per year for all of our members on a one-time, non-precedent, non-referral basis.

Volunteers will also collect accrued (if any is accrued) vacation pay.

Volunteers are being sought on a first-come, first-served basis. Under the contract, volunteers are prioritized by seniority, with members with longer tenures getting first crack at this. The Guild agreed to waive that condition on a one-time, non-precedent, non-referral basis to exchange for the higher severance.

As under the contract, the company reserves the right to deny the voluntary departure of employees critical to meeting the business needs of the Post.

Interested members should contact Bruce Benson at bbenson@post-dispatch.com or 314-340-8065.

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Hey, Post-Dispatch folks, check your Medical Retirement Account

Jan 12, 2017 by

Thanks to a Facebook thread started by Post-Dispatch reporter Jeremy Kohler on the United Media Guild group page, it has come to the our attention that many current or former P-D employees may not realize they have money sitting in a Medical Retirement Account.

This money comes from any unused company-funded deductible in your insurance plan during a given year. That process started back in 2008. Although this has been addressed in open enrollment meetings at the Post-Dispatch, many of us either missed that point or forgot about it.

You become vested in your Medical Retirement Account after four years. You cannot access this money until you are 55 years old AND you are no longer at the Post-Dispatch. And at that point you can only use the money for medical expenses as defined by the IRS.

Current employees can access their Tri-Star MRA information through Lee’s LINK homepage. Click on the Tri-Star button on the left side, then click on the “Account Summary,” then scroll down on the “Plan Year” date bar to 02/01/2008-12/31/2050. That will display “Medical Retirement Account.” Hit “Submit” to see how much money is in your MRA.

Ex-employees can call Tri-Star at 1-800-727-0182 to get information on their account. The UMG called that number and Tri-Star was most helpful.

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UMG mourns the loss of Post-Dispatch columnist

Dec 4, 2014 by

The United Media Guild has lost one of its best and most prominent members. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell passed away after a short battle with cancer.

One story tells you everything you need to know about the kind of co-worker Bryan was at the P-D.

Here goes:

Bryan was one of the most prominent sports journalists of his era. He worked the New York Daily News, the Detroit News and USA Today before coming to the Post-Dispatch. He had a high-profile television career, too, working for HBO and ESPN, among others. He wrote books and hosted radio shows.

You can’t get much bigger than Bryan in the media business. The man did it all and then some.

And yet during our previous contract battle with Lee Enterprises, he told us “If there is anything I can do to help, let me know.”

A lot of people say that, of course, but with Bryan we knew he was sincere. That is just the kind of person he is. So we called on him.

One member of the Lee board is a prominent sports figure. Bryan knew him pretty well. We asked Bryan to track down this man and chat about our contract fight. He gladly took the assignment.

This particular board member did not want to engage the conversation — no surprise there! — but this personal contact was just one more piece of a very involved campaign. We eventually settled the contract, keeping important protections that kept Post-Dispatch journalists in a much better place than most of their colleagues.

When your most prominent members look out for the others, you have a strong local union. The Post-Dispatch has had a strong tradition of that sort of support. Bryan Burwell was just another huge example of that.

But that is just how Bryan was. Despite all of his success, he was about as well-liked as anybody could be in such a treacherous business.

He always looked out for colleagues. He always had time for others.

The UMG will be forever grateful for his membership.

 

 

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