Friday, May 16, 2008

More about the East Bay union vote

Two follow-ups to yesterday's item about the National Labor Relations Board's decision to schedule a union vote at the Contra Costa Times and ANG newspapers on Friday, June 13.

First, the union claims management at the newspapers has met with an "anti-union consultant." "It’s our understanding that the company’s approach will be to portray the union as historically ineffective and unable to provide employees the kind of benefits they could reap without a union," said an item on the Guild's "One Big Bang" Web site.

Second, Contra Costa Times business writer George Avalos, who opposes unionization, has answered the questions that readers of the Press Club Web site have posted below a May 2 item on the union campaign. Avalos posted his responses in the "comments" portion of that May 2 item, but since that's now back in the archives, we've pasted it below. (And of course if the Guild people want to respond, we will post that too.)
    Anon: George, no question the Guild is totally screwed up.
    George: I completely agree

    Anon: The fact that your fellow employees would feel it is necessary to join such a messed up organization should tell you how desperate they are! They feel that they have no choice.
    George: There is a choice. People can choose to remain union free.

    Anon: [MediaNews Group CEO Dean] Singleton's reputation as a cheap skate who runs newspapers into the ground is well known.
    George: What should definitely be well known is the newspaper union's reputation for capitulation to management.

    Just ask the hundreds of folks who have been sent out the door as a result of deals made by union bosses at the San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News and Alameda Newspaper Group.

    Anon: If the CCN were a standalone business ...
    George: "What ifs" are for children. The reality is that the standalone horse fled the barn, went over the hill, headed out to the plains and started a family in a Knight Ridder galaxy long long ago and far far away.

    Anon: ... would it be on the verge of Chapter 11 right now?
    George: Our paper is still profitable, standalone or otherwise.

    Anon: The only way to stand up to [Singleton] is form a union. It's either that or quit. And they're quitting too.
    George: Free markets, free minds

    Anon: As for those "union free" buttons — I'd wear one too so that my bosses would think I'm on their side. That's called buying insurance.
    George: So when people buy auto insurance, they're being deceptive?

    Anon: But fortunately this is a SECRET BALLOT.
    George: I agree. That way the union bosses will find it more difficult to intimidate people who don't agree with them.

    Anon: I suspect most non-management types wearing "union free" buttons will be voting for the union. They just fear retaliation and will keep their true feelings secret.
    George: I personally know numerous folks who want to be union free and wear their buttons or make their views well known. I can assure you that these folks are not afraid of anyone. They're not afraid of the president, they're not afraid of the senators who are running for president, they're not afraid of the dog catcher, and they're not afraid of anyone in between.

    So they're certainly not afraid of management. And they're certainly not afraid of a union that can't shoot straight and has demonstrated it is completely ineffective in producing any meaningful change.

    If you ask specific questions of the union bosses in the East Bay, or the union bosses on Natoma Street in San Francisco, or the union bosses in their fancy offices in their Washington, D.C. high rise, all you will get are vague replies: "We'll check with the members," "We'll have to see," or "That would be for contract negotiations."

    I would ask the union bosses these questions, none of which they have been able to answer:

    1. Will the union bosses demand that our newspapers fire rank-and-file workers if they don't want to pay dues to the Guild?

    2. Will the union bosses cancel pay raises for ordinary, hard-working journalists year after year?

    3. Will the union bosses, after a decade of negotiations, simply capitulate — like the union bosses did the first time at ANG — and just say "Sorry. We know this contract sucks. But this was the best we could get."

    If they don't — or won't — answer, shouldn't that trouble you?

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