Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #2



On Wednesday morning, from 9 a.m. to noon, your Guild bargaining committee will sit down with Seattle Times management for a second meeting as part of our negotiations for a new contract.

We expect to get more information about the company’s current proposals, and to receive an initial response from the company side to the Guild’s opening proposals.



In the bargaining update following our first session, we noted the two biggest items proposed from the company side: a proposal to outsource ad design work to a third-party vendor and further outsourcing of additional circulation home-delivery functions to independent third-party dealerships. 

In addition to those proposals, here are the other items the company has put forward, some or all of which we expect to be discussing further, starting Wednesday:

  • Creation of a new Outside Sales job classification to be identified as Regional Sales. The exact parameters of the classification have not yet been fully explained, but the initial proposal from the company is that in addition to forming a separate classification, employees hired into the classification would not be protected by the just cause, grievance, and arbitration provisions of the contract, and would effectively be at-will employees.
  • Several proposed job-classification adjustments, which appear to potentially affect only a few single-incumbent positions in a limited way.
  • Continuation of a purely “me-too” standard on the Guild cost-share for spouse and dependent medical coverage, including the “spousal surcharge” for any spouse eligible for insurance through his or her own employer. Through 2016, the rate had been set at a maximum 35 percent employee contribution for spouse and dependent coverage, and the “spousal surcharge” had been capped at $75. The company’s proposal would leave them undefined, with only the guarantee that we won’t be charged any more that whatever is charged to managerial and other unaffiliated employees. (The Guild employee-only coverage cost-share would remain guaranteed at the current 20 percent maximum employee contribution.)
  • Language allowing the company to deny expense reimbursements if they are not submitted in accordance with “required policies and procedures,” including a fixed timeline of 30 days for submission.
  • Permission for the company to simply require an employee to purchase a cellphone or smartphone, and maintain a voice and data plan, subject to reimbursement at a maximum rate of $50 per month. This would reverse the current contract provisions, which require the company to provide any mandatory equipment, but permit the employee to receive an allowance for a personal device, if the employee so chooses and it is compatible with the employee’s job.
  • Proposal to automatically enroll new hires in the 401(k) plan, with the initial contribution automatically set at 4% unless the employee elects to change it.
  • Tightening of the alcohol-measurement standard in the substance-abuse provisions from .05 percent to .04 percent.
  • Several additional rather technical proposals on definition of base incentives, calculation of overtime during holiday weeks, and pension-plan administration. It’s not clear at this point if these are actually substantive or simply involve cleanup or clarification of existing language.



From the Guild side, we put forward a wide range of proposals covering a number of different concerns. Some of these would cost the company money; others would not. No one opens a negotiation expecting that they will get everything they initially ask for. We asked the company not to respond negatively simply on the basis that something might represent an added cost, but instead to respectfully consider the need (including the simple need for fairness and equity) and to creatively offer alternative solutions, if they could not meet our proposals.

PROBATION & PROMOTION – We asked the company to credit any service a new hire might have as a temporary employee as time toward satisfying probation, and to shorten from 30 days to 7 days the time before a substitute covering a higher-paying job is owed the higher rate of pay. We also asked that all current News Residents be immediately promoted to the appropriate classification (Reporter, Photographer, etc.) and confirmed as regular full-time employees at the appropriate pay rate at least one step above their current pay rate.

BENEFITS – Reduction of the cap on the employee-only cost-share for medical coverage to 15 percent, and reinstatement of the cap for spouse and dependent coverage at 30 percent. We also proposed to eliminate the “spousal surcharge” entirely. The split on dental-insurance coverage has been 50-50 for some time, and we propose to put that in writing.

LEAVES OF ABSENCE – We proposed that benefits should remain available on the same terms for the first six months of any leave. We further proposed an 8-week minimum amount of paid maternity/paternity leave for birth or adoption of a child, and an update to the language to clarify that all prospective parents would covered, regardless of gender.

COMMUTING & PARKING – We made several proposals with the goal of ensuring (1) that employees required to bring their cars to work are reimbursed for the full cost of parking; (2) that employees bringing their cars or commuting via car actually have a safe and convenient place to park; (3) that the cost of parking for commuters is reasonably affordable; and (4) that employees commuting via public transit receive a subsidy closer to the actual cost of their commute.

EXPENSES – An increase in the smartphone or digital-device reimbursement from $50 per month to $85 per month, with additional reimbursement for work-related data overages and work-related home internet service.

ADVANCE NOTICE OF LAYOFFS – Increase in the advance notice period from 4 weeks to 6 weeks, and extension of the layoff volunteer period from 2 weeks to 3 weeks.

SCHEDULES – We proposed that 2-week advance notice of scheduling include setting a consistent starting time as well as regular days off, and that failure to provide sufficient notice of a change to a schedule that could not be justified on an emergency basis would require payment of overtime.

SAFETY & WORK ENVIRONMENT – Comprehensive annual reviews of the ergonomic quality of all work stations, and of facility ventilation and lighting systems.

DRUG POLICY – We proposed to remove marijuana from the list of banned substances, in order to recognize the reality of legalization under Washington state law, and to amend testing protocols in favor of state standards. 

As previously noted, neither the company nor the Guild put forward a comprehensive economic proposal, and both sides noted their intention to put forward full proposals on wages and compensation later. 

However, the Guild did formally propose to reinstate the accrual of benefits on the pension plan for Guild-affiliated employees, and we expect to receive a formal response and justification from the company regarding the continued frozen status of the plan.

Following tomorrow’s meeting, the Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again on Friday, February 26 from 9 a.m. to noon.


Guild Bargaining Committee: Phil Kearney (Advertising), Rob Davila (News), Barb Heller (Circulation), Darryl Sclater (TNG)


Any unit member with questions or concerns about any of these proposals can talk with one of the Guild committee members or contact the Guild office.


Posted on February 23, 2016 and filed under BARGAINING, SEATTLE TIMES.