Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back on Track!

I am pleased to say that negotiations appear to be back on track and were very productive. TA's (Tentative Agreements) were reached on language pertaining to management rights, union security, dues checkoff and seniority. We have previously reached agreements on grievance and arbitration as well as union recognition. These topics are considered pillars of a union contract and the committee is very happy that we were able to move forward this round. The company displayed considerable movement, as did we, and we created proposals that addressed both of our concerns. This progress will enable us to get closer to the economics of our contract which will be understandably more difficult to negotiate considering the industry as a whole.

The company's written response to our request for information regarding raises given to non-union production employees is still in the capable hands of our attorney in Washington and we await his determination as to how to proceed.

Walking in webs at end of shift (L.A.)
The new practice of walking in the webs after washing blankets to replace washed out webs will no longer continue. Management agreed to stop this practice and stated this was done due to an increase in the number of webs being washed out. They went on to say that if it webs continue to be washed out they will consider this practice again. I presented the argument that we would prefer to wash our own blankets after lining up and the benefits of doing so. We will continue to discuss this topic and hopefully we can return to washing blankets based on what we know, not what they think.

Seniority list
Management has expressed little concern over the seniority list but recognizes that we need an acurate seniority list. They were willing to leave it as is and take the heat, or I can submit another list and take the heat. My view is that if we can correct the obvious errors, there should be no heat to take. Any one who feels they are out of position based on the most recent seniority list needs to, once again provide the details in writing so that a formal proposal to make those changes can be prepared and delivered to the company at the next negotiations in September. That gives us approximately one month to receive written requests from anyone currently out of position. ONLY THE INDIVIDUALS WHO PROVIDE WRITTEN DETAILS WILL HAVE THEIR CONCERNS ADDRESSED.
If you would like a current copy of the seniority list, contact Keith Denson or myself.
E-mail your written details to to have your seniority reviewed and considered for revision. Management will make the actual decisions to modify an individuals seniority based on the employee provided written details and employment records on file.
Let's put this one to bed once and for all, so get me your written details quickly so I can draft the proposal asking management make the necessary corrections.

In closing, I would ask that each of you step up your game and do your job to the best of your ability. It is our job to leave our shops clean at the end of our shift. Cleaning is part of our job and should be done, not only because we get paid to do so, but rather out of courtesy to our brothers or sisters that follow us on the next shift. This is your shop and a little pride will go a long way. Sweeping our pits, picking up and emptying the trash and mopping up oil is not only part of our job, it makes our shops much safer for everyone.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Vacation Over, Back to the Table

Vacation over and I'm another year older, I won't bore you with what I did. Calls from L.A. brothers about a change in our practices at the end of the shift came to me last week involving a new practice in L.A.'s. pressroom. Leads now have to be walked in after washing blankets to deter washing out the webs. Does management actually give a crap, when we, not them, have to pick them up. This is another way for supervision to police our work and will give management another way to pit us against one another. How will the individuals that wash out webs be viewed by the rest of the crew when the leads have to be put back in before going home? Now add a couple of bars.

It's obvious a complaint was lodged with the office that previous shifts are washing out webs. This is part of the job and happens on every shift and no one should feel compelled to complain when it happens to them. Blankets can be washed without washing them out, if they are done right, but how many of us actually washes the blankets right knowing that we go home as soon as we're done? It is part of our job and we should be washing them thoroughly for quality purposes, but does not justify the change without collective bargaining.

The appropriate, and only solution would be to go back to washing before the run. This would ensure that washing will be done properly and give supervision the opportunity to inspect the blankets if they chose to. If the blankets need further cleaning that can be addressed while the employee assigned to that particular unit is still there. If a lead is washed out, you pick up your own leads, not leads washed out by the previous crew because they were anxious to bolt out of there as quickly as possible. Washing before the run as we used to do has been suggested many times to management and is considered by Russ as only a way to get a bigger bust-out. This was the standard prior to Walker changing the washing process back in 2003 and should be reversed at this time because it hasn't seemed to slow anyone down and it will guarantee clean blankets everyday, every run. We have proposed this in our overall contract proposal and will pursue this change further today.

We will have more information pertaining to the company's written response to our request for information regarding the recent raises given to non-union production employees as soon as the committee meets with our representative Sonny Shannon today. The written response was being reviewed by our attorney in Washington and President Tedeschi. We on the committee are just as anxious as are all of you to learn what our options are in this matter.

I personally hope that the company comes to the table today with a willingness to salvage the progress we felt we had made right up until the closing hour of our last negotiations. As I stated in a previous post, we had expressed a willingness to show some flexibility and it was not fully reciprocated in their latest proposal regarding seniority. Flexibility has been their number one request, yet they have shown none. We are expected to respond to their latest package proposal and will pick up where we left off.

News from this round of negotiations will be posted after we conclude on Wednesday.

Is the new Publisher a Union Guy?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Olympics on Saveourtrade

I thought this was a cool widget to allow SOT visitors to catch up on the Olympics. Enjoy.

Exclusive Summer Olympics news & widgets at NBC!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

"No Go" tiations!

First, I apologize for the delay in getting this information posted, so let's get started. The latest negotiations which took place on Wednesday July 30th and Thursday July 31st were expected to be very productive on our part, considering where we left off previously. We had essentially felt that a positive dialog had begun and presumed that we would both negotiate from a "mutual interest" point of view.

We began at the table Wednesday morning by receiving the company's reponse to our information request pertaining to the recent "Hybrid" merit raises given to non-union production employees. The legal jargon we've been given in response to previous requests was again being recycled in this response as if it is memorized and put on a rubber stamp for convienience. That being said, our Legal Representatives will review their written response and instruct our Rep's Sonny and Mike as to how we should proceed on this subject. Any wage increase we propose will include that it be retroactive to raises currently being given.

We have expressed an opposition to merit based wage increases from the very beginning because of the evaluation process that is used to determine the eligibilty of an employee to recieive an increase, and the amount of an individual's potential increase based on his or her evaluation. We believe everyone will agree that this process has proven to cater to favortism and also believe you would agree that a "general" wage increase across the board is the only fair method of implementing a wage increase.

As we had previously discussed at the table, and agreed to, Sonny and I, along with the company's representives, Tim Fair and Russ met in "side bar" off the record, thus I cannot devulge the actual conversations that took place during this procedure. Without giving any details of the conversation, Sonny and I listened to items the company considered "deal breakers" and they simply would not consider agreeing to. We listened closely to their concerns and feel that we were willing give some ground to move the negotiations forward and show good faith. This procedure took the better part of Wednesday, and Sonny and I both left the side bar feeling that it was extremely productive and looked forward to getting back to the table, and back on record.

Thursday's negotiations began early with much anticipation. Seniority was an issue we discussed in previous negotiations and felt we were getting close to an agreement at that time. In the final hour, the company decided they would propose to classify each position and in the event of staffing reductions, the lowest seniority pressperson in a specific classification would be laid off first. We said we would agree to that concept if they would agree to "bumping rights" which would allow a senior pressperson who's job classification experiences a reduction in staffing to bump someone with less seniority outside of that classification, thus resulting in the last man in, first man out. Their pat answer of "we're not interested" and their unwillingness to agree to reverse seniority without classification caused this subject to be set aside.

Sonny felt that this topic (seniority) was a good place to begin on Thursday morning and would also be used to gauge the company's movement in the negotiations in general, simply because this issue does not have an economic impact on the company one way or another.
We have stood fast on the principle of reverse seniority in the event of staffing reductions. The company representatives have sought to layoff and recall according to skills and ability.
The problem with their approach, like merit raises, allows for favortism. Another concern of our's with this concept is, who will be responsible for determining one's skills and abilities?
Management? Supervision? Sam Zell? Again favortism surfaces.

We prepared and presented a "package proposal" giving the company the "management rights" they sought with the inclusion of language that would prevent their mgt. rights from superceeding the agreements contained in the contract. In exchange we were asking for seniority language which included reverse seniority in the event of staffing reductions, union security, which requires union membership to work in our shops, and dues check off, requiring the company to deduct union dues from members payroll and forward those dues to the local.
Remember, all union dues are tax deductable and we don't pay dues until we ratify a contract.

Our package proposal was rejected, and the company presented a counter proposal in which they sought to protect up to 15 individuals they deemed "high performers" they would like to retain in the event of layoffs. This number amounted to 6% of the 248 workforce employed in the pressrooms. Our first reaction was, again, favortism will flourish under this concept. Sonny challenged their number of 15 and used a hypothetical layoff of 20 individuals and illustrated that if they could protect 15 of the 20, they would actually receive 75% protection for their favorites from being laid off. There was no way we would even consider this and counter proposed, for the purpose of moving forward, a 1 in 20 ratio that would allow them to protect 1 in 20 if a layoff were to occur. So in order for them to save 1 of their high perfomers, a minimum of 20 individuals would have to be targeted for layoff. If 39 positions are being eliminated, they would still only be able to protect 1 high performer.

Another section of their proposal contained new language which would essentially strip the union of it's "jurisdiction" and allow the company to bring in any one they choose to run our presses without them having to join the Teamsters. The extreme danger of this language would also allow the company to send our work outside the buliding to other workers without recourse. This language was introduced, once again, in the final hour mucking up the progress we had felt we were making. Sonny became very irate with the company representatives for attempting to introduce this language knowing that this would be highly scrutinized and rejected by our side of the table. The company came with another counter proposal eliminating the protections for high performers, and gave us reverse seniority, but was not interested in removing the language that trampled on the unions jurisdiction. This package proposal by the company was made with the stipulation that if rejected, it would be retracted. Sonny accused them of intentionally throwing a wrench in the process by doing so and broke off negotiations for the day.

Sonny, Mike, President Tedeschi and our Legal Team in Washington will review our last proposal and the company's as well, and determine how to proceed. I trust they will hammer out a plan that will put our negotiations on the track it needs to be on to achieve our goal of negotiating a "fair" collective bargaining agreement. Stand fast and be patient, we'll can get there together, in solidarity!

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