Separating fact from fantasy

Register Star and Journal-Standard employees are hearing some crazy things about what union representation would mean to them. Here are just some of the misleading “information” currently in circulation:

A Guild contract would include strict “last in, first out” layoff language.

That would only be true if the Rockford and Freeport employees insisted on such language and bargained it into a contract. An earlier post on this blog showed the layoff language from the Peoria and Pekin contracts. Both of those UMG-negotiated agreements give the company the latitude to choose which employees to keep in time of layoff.

The Guild is promising activists paid steward positions in exchange for their support.

The UMG does not pay its stewards. Anybody who suggests otherwise is a liar. Stewards volunteer their time to help their co-workers.

The Guild is promising to protect the jobs of activists.

That doesn’t happen in the UMG. Sadly, our previous two unit chairs at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch unit departed in layoffs.  There was nothing in the contract singling them out for protection. The Guild activists do what they do because they care about their co-workers and their newspaper.

The Guild would insist on strict work rules that would prevent employees from performing multiple tasks.

Again, the Rockford unit would set its own contract objectives. At the other GateHouse newspapers the UMG represents, our members perform a variety of tasks. At the national level, The Newspaper Guild encourages its members to broaden their skill set. In fact, the TNG runs its own video editing seminars with help from our parent union, the Communication Workers of America.

The Guild would force employees to have union representation with them while meeting with a manager.

Guild members have the legal right for union representation in any meeting that could involve disciplinary action. We believe it is employees to take advantage of that right to protect their own interests. However, this is a matter of choice. Union members always have the right to speak with management in private.

Register Star employees would have to pay an initiation fee if they voted in the Guild.

The United Media Guild does not require members of an incoming units to pay an initiation fee. And the UMG will not collect dues until the Register Star and Journal-Standard employees gain a first contract good enough to approve by secret ballot.

Employees would no longer be able to arrange “flex time” with a union contract in place.

There are a variety of ways to define work days and work weeks in a contract. Register-Star employees would set their own contract goals, based on their own priorities. The Guild believes its members should seek protection against excessively long shifts, quick turnarounds between shifts and “split shifts” that can take a big toll on employees. That said, work day flexibility hasn’t been a big issue at any of the current UMG units. Common sense generally prevails.

The United Media Guild’s only income comes from dues — and its spends more than it takes in dues.

As noted in our previous post in this blog, the UMG has about $3.5 million carefully invested. Our significant investment income allows us to spend more money servicing members than we collect from dues. For instance, we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars pursuing litigation against Lee Enterprises for reneging on contractually guaranteed retire medical benefits. We were not obligated to pursue such an expensive case on behalf of our retirees, but it was the right thing to do. We won a big settlement and every penny of it went  to the impacted retirees. None of the settlement went to defray out legal costs.

Our finances are a matter of public record. An earlier post included a link that leads you to the federal site where you can review our filing.


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