Seattle Times 2016 Bargaining Bulletin #6



At our most recent bargaining session, on Thursday last week, we moved toward narrowing down the list of open issues and presented the company with an initial base wage proposal.



For the three-year term of the contract, we proposed an annual base wage increase of 4 percent per year. The increase would apply both to the minimum wage scales in the contract, and to each individual's personal rate, if that rate is higher.

We also proposed revisions to some of the lower-level wage scales. Because the starting rates of some of the scales have not been updated for some time, a number of positions potentially start at less than $15 per hour. We proposed to push those up to at least $15.

We also proposed to guarantee that individual pay rates could not be reduced during the life of the contract, including any pay over the minimum scales, as long as the person remains in the same classification. Currently, the contract allows the company to remove any extra pay that is classified as merit pay, which at present is the bulk of extra pay that most people receive.



As part of opening up the broader discussion of wages, we also updated some proposals:

(1) We formally withdrew our proposal to resume accrual of benefits on the pension plan.

(2) With respect to parking at the Denny location, we modified our proposal so that it would cap the cost of parking at no more than current levels, both for those required to bring their vehicles to the Denny location and for regular commuters. We also asked that the company commit to guaranteeing secure and convenient access to any remote parking lot that may be used during the transition period while the building across the street is under construction. Earlier, the company had outlined an agreement with the developer that will provide access to parking across the street when the new building is completed, and provides for parking at another location (as yet to be determined) in the interim. If a shuttle service is necessary to move people between the Denny building and the parking lot, we asked that it operate during all working hours for the building, including later evening hours. We emphasized concern about this as a safety issue.

(3) We modified our cell-phone reimbursement proposal to a straightforward increase from $50 to $85 per month. We withdrew our proposal on to business-related data-overage charges, which the company said would be too difficult to administer. We also withdrew our proposal for reimbursement of extra home-internet charges. (The company had said that there is no minimum internet requirement related to working from home.)

(4) On the company's proposal to put in place a time limit for submitting expenses for reimbursement, we counter-proposed a limit of 90 days. The company promptly came back with a counter-counter of 45 days.

(5) We modified our proposal to immediately move all News Residents to regular reporter or photographer positions, as permanent employees. Instead, we proposed to provide Residents with the same full grievance and arbitration protections as all other employees, and as part of our wage proposal, we proposed to raise the Resident wage scales to the regular pay rates for reporters and photographers. We also proposed to reduce the maximum number of potential Residents at any one time from the 20 to five, in order to reflect the smaller overall size of the newsroom. On this specific point, the company quickly counter-proposed a limit of 10.



The company presented us with a modified version of a proposal they had made earlier. This proposal would allow the company to demand to bargain over the terms of the pension article during the life of the contract, if they want to make changes to the specific terms of the pension article or to the pension plan itself.

The specific rationale for this was that company might be able to take advantage of administrative or legal changes that could help reduce the financial pressure on the company arising out of its pension obligations.

However, when we asked what could be excluded in terms of what changes the company might seek, they declined to say.

We are particularly concerned that the company proposal would require us to bargain. In the past, when we have made changes to the pension (including agreeing to the pension freeze) we have always done so in circumstances where we were not required to bargain. The contract was closed, and the company requested us to consider the changes, based on their explanation of the need involved. The requirement to bargain means that effectively we would not have a choice whether or not to consider any changes, and that the company would be able to push any demand for changes as far as they choose.

This is obviously a big change. In practical terms, it would mean that the pension provisions would not really be set in place, even after we signed the contract.

We pointed out to the company that our group has always worked with the company in the past, when they were able to show legitimate problems and needs. We also offered to put language in the contract committing us to meet promptly with the company to discuss and consider any urgent issues related to the pension. However, we would retain the right to say "yes" or "no" to any changes during the term of the contract.

We feel strongly that what the company is asking for is ultimately a blank check. It is blank both because we don't know the full scope of what might be demanded from us, or how far the company would push it.

We avoided emphasizing this problematic proposal earlier, because we initially thought the company might be content with a more general commitment to work with them in the future, and we did not want to unduly alarm unit members. But the company seems committed to their position, and it is looking like an area where agreement will be very difficult.



We continue to discuss the terms of the company's outsourcing proposals, and expect to provide counterproposals to the company in conjunction with our other economic proposals.


The Guild and management bargaining teams will meet again this week on Tuesday, May 24 and Thursday, May 26, from 9 a.m. to noon, at which point we expect to continue discussion of these and other open proposals.


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.

Thank you for your solidarity and support!


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