Today's negotiations were mentally exhausting and frustrating to say the least. We received the company's response to our 10/30/08 economic proposal and were astonished to hear them reject practically every word when most everything we proposed wasn't a far leap from where we are currently in regards to wages, benefits and retirement. The company, as expected countered and we received the company's first economic proposal. My initial reaction was that they might as well had printed it on toilet paper because that is what it appropriately should be used for.
We knew that there was going to be cost containment language in their initial proposals but it was insulting to the committee and our representatives to see what they came to the table offering our bargaining unit. For them to even begin where they did, was a slap in the face to all who print this newspaper. We had earlier offered, in extremely good faith and with extreme flexibility, language that enables the company to reap long term savings going forward with the expectation of a fair wage increase and an affordable benefits package.
This was a bit of a surprise considering how urgent they've seemed to be to get a contract. We understand that it was their first proposal, and shot back our counter proposal with what we on the committee believed to be fair and pretty much in line with where we are now. It did include a sufficient annual wage increase, and the opportunity to actually generate retirement savings in a retirement vehicle far superior to the retirement plan non-union employees have to accept.
Again, the majority of our counter proposal was rejected and the temperature began to rise. The movement displayed by the opposition in their counter proposal was so insignificant we saw no reason to drastically revise our 2nd counter proposal. We know what the bargaining unit will accept or reject when and if we get a contract to consider for ratification and will not agree to any less than what we had when we walked into negotiations one year ago.
This is just the beginning of what we expected to be difficult bargaining considering both the newspaper industry as a whole, and the economy. The company did state that there is room for them to move, but just how much remains to be seen. This is exactly why we need to strengthen our solidarity and focus on a unified body that will withstand any efforts by management to seek more from us for less. It is no secret that they indeed will be expecting more from us for the fact that my very credible sources tell me that the company is trying to weasel out of their contract with the pressroom cleaners (Network City). A thirty day notice was given to Network City in which the company seeks to terminate their contract. I was also informed that there are two years remaining on that contract. So who do all of you think will inherit those responsibilities?
Now let's discuss the obvious possibility of becoming the "printing hub" that management has spoken of and we have read about in our own paper. The "JOA" joint operating agreement" with The Orange County Register we have been hearing about and was reported in the Orange County Business Journal will no doubt result in our printing of this product. Now throw in the possibility of printing the WSJ, The San Diego Union Tribune and any other potential publication Zell is eyeballing and we can breath easier for the foreseeable near future.
This is what the company hopes to to do and we as a union should want the same and aspired to achieve this goal hand in hand. We will have the responsibility of producing these alternative products with the same quality standards expected from our Los Angeles Times customers.
There is no doubt in my mind that we in the pressroom will rise to the occasion when the time comes as we have done historically, and for that fact, we on the committee will not comprise our worth to this company. Equally, the company should not ignore the contribution we make on a daily basis, year in, year out as we've done for decades.
We called it a day to let cooler heads prevail and will resume negotiations on November 20th. That was the earliest date possible for both parties. We know that many more of our brothers and sisters have put their faith in the Union and understand that the landscape of the pressroom would be far worse now had we not organized and are aware of what will happen should we ever put our trust in Sam Zell or his minions. We cannot afford to allow this opportunity to escape us no matter what we face in negotiations, so please remain united and patient, because we have always persevered in the face of challenge. This will be by far the biggest challenge we will face together. It will take everyone to stand up for what you believe you are worth and our TRADE deserves. Accept no less, your negotiating committee won't either.
Fraternally and in Solidarity!