The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia


May 28, 2015billrossInquirer

As the Company tries to distract you with attempts to pit union against union and younger worker against older instead of coming to the table with proposals worthy of a company owned by Gerry Lenfest, the Guild has set a strike authorization vote for next Wednesday (June 3) at the Loews Hotel at 12th and Market streets. All Guild members are urged to come and vote. The secret-ballot vote will take place between 5 and 8 pm. The Guild bargaining committee will be there to answer any questions you might have before you cast this important vote. If you are unable to attend the vote in person, you may vote by email either:

1) Yes, I authorize the Guild executive board to begin strike preparations
2) No, I do not authorize the Guild executive board to begin strike preparations

For those of you new to this process, a vote to authorize a strike IS NOT a vote to strike. It is simply a vote to give the Guild executive board the approval to plan for a strike and meet with officers from the International Guild and the Communications Workers of America who would have to approve, fund and set the date for a strike. This also allows our parent union to bring the heavy-hitters in from Washington to try to make the Company see the light and avoid a work stoppage. No one wants a strike. No one wants to walk off the job and put the company at further risk. Strikes are very serious, last-resort attempts when all attempts at reasoning and good-faith bargaining have failed. But so far, after around 30 sessions, they have failed. Most unions, in fact, take strike authorization votes before they even begin bargaining to give their bargainers leverage if management remains intransigent and unfair. The Guild chose not to do this because we took Mr. Lenfest at his word when he told our executive board that he did not want to take money away from his employees and that we should “work hard and rest easy.” We took VP for News Operations Stan Wischnowski at his word when he said at the first bargaining session he was looking forward to a “win-win.”

What’s happened since then? Nothing but months of sessions attacking seniority, worrying only about layoffs and ignoring the importance of the staff, denying them a contract that respects their talents and skills. With regard to health care, even with the Company’s $500,000 offer, the Health & Welfare Fund the Guild administers WITH the company will have a shortfall of approximately $2.8 million in the coming year and surely more after that. Without the Company increasing its contribution, that $2.8 million must be made up by the 400 Guild members (and their families) in the plan. Simple math turns that into the numbers we’ve told you previously: An ADDITIONAL $4,000 to $12,000 depending on the number of people who remain in the plan and whether they’re single or with families. If the Company does not increase its funding, the only other option is to weaken the plan and raise the deductibles, co-insurance and co-pays of Guild members. Under this scenario, a family with serious or chronic illnesses or suffering an accident could be hit with crippling health care bills over $20,000 annually. Think we’re being overdramatic? We’ll show you the numbers. What has the Company shown you? They haven’t shown us anything. Management has had months to offer a health care alternative but has done nothing, so the plan year with our present Aetna plan rolls over June 1. By January, the Health & Welfare Fund will no longer be able to foot the bill for the deficits the price of this plan incurs. At that point, someone has to pay or we will default on our health insurance.

With regard to Amy Buckman’s note from yesterday about the other unions’ negotiations, we think it’s great the company has made some progress. Since Stan Wischnowski and VP of Human Resources Keith Black have admitted to having no role in the negotiations with the trade unions, maybe that’s the reason. Or maybe the reason is that those unions were not asked to weaken their seniority rules or pay skyrocketing premiums for their health care. We’ve asked the Company for details on their offers to the other unions, but they’ve said nothing, even though they had no problem publicizing their warped version of the offer they made to the Guild.

Also, keep in mind that the company strategy to try and make deals with the trade unions (some of which have fewer than a dozen members) and use them to squeeze the Guild is an old ploy. This PMN pony still only knows one trick. What is new, is the company’s assertion that if the Guild went out on strike with newsroom,, advertising, circulation and finance personnel, the other unions would not honor our picket line and continue to print and deliver what could only be an embarrassing shadow of our fine products.

But why push this enterprise to the edge of a cliff and turn a “win-win” into a “no-win”? A settlement is one session away: Pay for health care, merge into the main unit and drop this seniority nonsense. Then let’s enjoy the summer and start preparing for the Pope and the Eagles.

In solidarity,
Howard Gensler
Bill Ross
Diane Mastrull
Cindy Burton
Melanie Burney
Regina Medina
Brian McCrone