We’re excited about voting for the Guild on Jan. 4 and joining the unionized ranks of our peers at The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters, AP and many others.
We’re determined to safeguard the future of The Los Angeles Times and the journalism our readers love.
In opposing our historic campaign, Tronc doesn’t have a good story to tell. So it’s resorted to misinformation and scare tactics. Here are some reality-based reminders:
Lavish executive pay
Tronc’s own financial filings show that it lavishes millions of dollars on excessive salaries, bonuses, stock awards and perks for a handful of top executives. Tronc just gave Chairman Michael Ferro a sweetheart deal that pays him $5-million a year to provide “consulting services” to his own company. He gets all the money up front at the start of the year, and what he does with it is entirely his choice.
This is on top of the nearly $5 million Tronc has already spent to lease Ferro a private jet from one of his own firms.
Tronc has struggled to defend these outlays -- and claims that executive compensation falls outside our Guild negotiations. Wrong. Once we unionize, we can demand that Tronc redirect some of those millions to the newsroom. Our readers and our city will be watching.
Tronc has suggested that our Guild intends to pursue seniority protections that would be unfair to newer employees. That’s nonsense. Seniority clauses in union contracts appropriately recognize and reward employees for their time on the job. The contract our newsroom negotiates could achieve that end while also providing flexibility and incentives for the benefit of less-senior employees.
These hybrid seniority clauses are found at many Guild-represented newsrooms.
Starting from zero
This is one of Tronc’s favorite lines: If we form our Guild, contract negotiations could start from zero – in other words, we could begin with less than what we already have. Not true. Under federal law, the pre-union status quo remains in place for pay, benefits and working conditions as we negotiate a contract. Theoretically, Tronc could ask to start from zero. And we would say no – and have the law on our side.
Tronc has insinuated that, after we launch our Guild, one newsroom employee’s pay could be cut to increase another’s. That’s pure fiction. We would never propose such a measure. And if Tronc did, we’d refuse to agree to it.
With our Guild, we’ll enjoy a legally guaranteed right to refuse. Tronc neglects to tell you that.
Rigid work rules
More make-believe: Tronc suggests that our Guild contract would restrict your ability to work certain hours, perform a variety of tasks, respond to news emergencies, move between specialties, and so forth. Why would we agree to any of that? We wouldn’t. This is a non-issue, as employees of Guild-represented newspapers, wire services and websites will tell you.
Tronc likes to say the Guild would be a “third party” standing between you and your supervisor and otherwise intruding in the newsroom. That’s an old-timey anti-union myth. You and your colleagues would comprise the Guild. Together, we would form our own Guild local, elect our own officers, and govern our own affairs, including in contract talks.
The Guild’s national staff would be available for negotiating expertise, legal advice and protection, and whatever other help and support we request.
The Guild dues would be 1.38% of your salary, but you would not pay a cent until AFTER you and your colleagues ratify a newsroom contract. We would not propose or embrace a contract that did not deliver improvements that more than offset the cost of dues. A "union security" clause Tronc has tried to frightened people with – you know, firings over failure to pay dues – is something that would have to be proposed and approved by the newsroom.
Nothing about the Guild or collective bargaining would prevent management from granting individual merit raises above and beyond the general pay increases guaranteed by a contract. Merit raises are common at Guild-represented news organizations. Management always is entitled to treat you better.
Standards of quality
Many of us joined the Guild campaign primarily to have a voice in preserving the journalism ethics and standards of quality that make The Times an essential institution – and a trusted brand that readers will pay for.
In that regard, some recent decisions and statements by management have deeply disturbed us, including in the Disney matter. We also are concerned about Ferro’s history of slashing jobs – an entire photo department in one case – and Lewis D’Vorkin’s record of favoring freelancers over staffers, as well as promoting a certain type of advertorial content.
With a Guild, we will have the statutory right to openly address and oppose management moves that we believe pose a threat to our ethics and the quality of our journalism.
We’ve heard Tronc say that the Guild-represented Baltimore Sun didn’t get a so-called across-the-board raise (which skipped many of you) nearly two years ago, and that The Times’ unionized pressroom “lost” a 401k match.
Actually, The Sun’s employee representatives rejected the raise because Tronc wanted, in return, to eliminate the Guild’s guaranteed pay scale, something we would love to have.
In the pressroom, management had a similarly unacceptable price for the 401k match – that employees start surrendering their guaranteed vacation pay (they get up to five weeks annually). The employees did the math and said no. Tronc has since eliminated guaranteed vacation for the vast majority of its non-union employees.
Tronc has implied that voting for the Guild would lead to a strike. The truth is that strikes at Guild newspapers have been an extreme rarity for decades. Nobody likes strikes, including management. That’s why companies insist on including no-strike clauses in contracts.
We can get a good contract without a strike, just as journalists at other major news companies routinely do.
The Bottom line
If even a fraction of what Tronc says about unionizing were real, the continued operation of The New York Times and Washington Post (and countless other news outlets) would be a miracle.
Corporations like Tronc never fight a union so that they could boost your pay, sweeten your benefits, shield you from layoffs and give you a say in the workplace. Just the opposite.
Vote Jan. 4!
-- The Los Angeles Times Guild organizing committee