Friday, June 13, 2008

52nd Annual North American Newspaper Conference

I had the privilege of attending the 52nd Annual NANC this past week in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is an annual joint conference with delegates from both the GCC and Teamster's Newspaper, Magazine and Electronic Media. Keith Denson and I were honored to attend the 51st NANC last year in Florida and we both admit it was a very educational and eye opening experience.

During the conference Union Delegates from newspapers across the country meet to discuss the state of the newspapers they work for and the activities their Locals are involved in for their members.

Numerous workshops are held to focus on specific areas of union business. I was fortunate to be appointed to the organizing committee in which we discussed the many obstacles we face attempting to win representation and how to overcome those hurdles. Delegates from newspapers owned by Dean Singleton, Gannett, Rupert Murdoch and our very own Sam Zell participated in a very spirited discussion and I was astonished to specifically learn from each delegate that the assault on employees by their owners is more prevalent than ever imagined before.

The Employee Free Choice Act which failed to pass legislation in its maiden attempt due to an employer friendly republican senate would have allowed employees to join a union without having a secret ballot election. Employers have exploited the current election process and utilizes every anti-union, anti-employee tactic at their disposal. The EFCA would allow employees to join by simply signing a membership card. Democratic Presidential hopeful Senator, Barak Obama supports the EFCA and organized labor. Senator Obama has spoken with Teamster General President Jim Hoffa assuring him that he will be a Pro Labor President. The Teamsters support Barak Obama for President and I think we should all vote for him in November.

I was also invited by our GCC/IBT Organizer Marty Keegan to sit in on the newspaper committee with several delegates from Zell owned newspapers as well as the others I mentioned earlier. We all share the same concerns regarding the sale to our newspapers to Sam Zell and the decisions being made that affect all of our futures. The Teamsters have fought the sale of Tribune to Sam Zell from day one understanding that an ESOP without employee representation is nothing more than deceitful. Declining ad revenue, declining circulation and staffing reductions seemed to be the major subjects discussed in this committee.

There was good news regarding the GCC and an increase of 3% in membership after years of membership declines due to plant closures and consolidations. Unions across the nation are winning elections by employees seeking representation to protect their interests in their workplace. All L.A. Times employees need to consider organizing in order to have a voice considering the latest announcement to further reduce staffing at our newspaper. I'll admit, Sam said a lot of things that lead many of us to believe that he was going to do good by all of us and the paper by building it, instead he is dismantling it faster than any of us ever imagined.

I also met with our President George Tedeschi, Teamster Organizer Manny Valenzuela, GCC/IBT Organizer Marty Keegan, International Representatives Sonny Shannon and Mike Huggins to discuss our negotiations and created a plan to insure that we are given every opportunity to negotiate a fair Collective Bargaining Agreement. Those of you who attended our chapel meeting in Monrovia were made aware of options we and the Teamsters hope to utilize in an effort to raise awareness and support for our pressrooms from the community. These meetings at the conference set the groundwork for building our support base around the country and in the local public sector which is valuable in motivating the company to bargain in good faith.

I would like to thank GCC/IBT President George Tedeschi, Secretary Treasurer Bob Lacey, NANC President/Chairman Joseph Inemer, Director Joe Molinero and especially all of my brothers and sisters in the L.A. Times pressrooms for allowing me the opportunity to represent our shops at the conference, and with great humbleness, allowing me to address the body of conference delegates and deliver a report on our negotiations.

To all the brothers and sisters at the conference, thanks for supporting our shops and negotiations and especially for the wholehearted brotherhood that each and every one of you lives by, I am always inspired by all of you and your sincerity, it is contagious and I hope it spreads to our pressrooms. It was a pleasure to spend time with Lou Nicosia and Mike Laspina from Local 406, Hello to all from both of them. Thanks to President Dennis Grabhorn and everyone at Newsday for your support. Good Luck with your impending change of ownership, I can only hope that we suffer the same fate and some one who gives a damn about this city and it's newspaper gets the chance to buy us before there's nothing left. (Are you listening Geffen?) It was also a pleasure to spend time with, and to learn from the brothers and sisters I had the privilege of meeting at last years conference, and the new ones I met this year.
Negotiations will resume on Monday, June 16Th.

1 comment:

Walter L. Zweifler, ASA said...

The moment for true emmployee ownership of print media has arrived. If organized labor declines to step up to the plate, the "Zell-like" take-over magnets will prevail. We believe in true union ownership in the newspaper industry and want to talk to others who share our enthusiasm for the concept.
Walter Zweifler, ASA
wzweifler@zweifler.com
973 763 5534

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