Lee Enterprises, the parent company of the Post-Dispatch, has emerged from bankruptcy and successfully refinanced its debt into more favorable terms. It continues to pay down the debt with positive cash flow and reward its top executives with hefty bonuses.
With our current collective bargaining agreement for the P-D unit set to expire Sept. 27, the United Media Guild will focus on economics in the coming negotiations. Our members took pay cuts and endured unpaid furloughs in the previous contract.
We hoped to minimize layoffs as Lee navigated through its serious economic crisis. Despite gaining the concessions, the company continued reducing our workforce as revenues declined. Those remaining at the P-D have taken on more and more responsibility.
Our surviving journalists keep doing award-winning work despite losing significant earning power. Our surviving salespersons keep striving to meet challenging goals in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
So our top objective for the next contract will be to improve the pay scales for our hourly employees and to gain additional commission, bonus and territory/client list safeguards for our salespersons to stabilize their earnings.
We will survey our salespeople about particular concerns that must be addressed in bargaining. We will survey all of our members to see how they prioritize these potential negotiating points:
- Maintaining our current cost share percentage for health insurance premiums.
- Lowering the percentage cap to the year-to-year increases in our share of those premiums.
- Improving maternity/paternity leave.
- Increasing the company’s 401K contributions.
- Thawing the frozen Pulitzer Pension Plan.
- Increasing the member life insurance coverage.
- Increasing the shift pay differential for working in a higher classification.
- Increasing the shift pay differential for filling in for a supervisor.
- Improving the cell phone reimbursement allowance and policy.
- Improving mileage reimbursement.
- Improving the car allowance for those eligible.
- Improving the company’s vacation-scheduling system to make it more equitable.
- Improving vacation call-back protections.
- Reducing the 12-month limit on employees being forced to work outside of their classification.
- Limiting the number of shifts reporters must work on the copy desk.
- Gaining additional holidays, personal days and vacation time.
- Gaining additional sick days for newer employees.
- Improving severance for newer employees who are laid off.
- Extending lay-off call-back requirements from 18 months to 24 months.
Soon our stewards will distribute negotiating surveys to our members. Our bargaining committee will consider the results of the survey while setting our negotiating priorities.