New Guild Proposals on Pension, Wages, Online Work - Seattle Times Bargaining Bulletin #9

Yesterday’s bargaining session consisted primarily of the Guild making proposals and counterproposals to the company. The major items we brought forward were in the area of pay and pension, and performance of online work in the news and sales and marketing departments. We reluctantly withdrew our proposal to resume accrual of benefits on the defined benefit pension plan. After looking carefully at the funding level of the plan and the existing obligations for current benefits, we concluded that resuming accrual on the plan simply does not look practical at this time. However, we proposed to continue the agreement that places a Guild representative on the pension board and investment committee, and that would require the Times to resume accrual of benefits on the Guild plan if accrual is restored on the unaffiliated plan.

While withdrawing our pension proposal, we put forward a new proposal to increase the company matching 401(k) contribution, and also presented our basic wage proposal. For the 401(k) we proposed increasing the match from 50 cents on the dollar to dollar-for-dollar, up to the first 4 percent of pay, effectively doubling the company contribution. On wages, we proposed 3 percent annual increases over a three-year term (or a total of 9 percent over three years). We calculated that after three years, given the need to make up the significant lost value of the pension, this would place overall compensation just slightly ahead of where it had been prior to the concessions that began in 2009.

We also attempted to address the company’s ostensible concerns about giving Guild members more online work, by offering a counterproposal that would extend agreements that prevent the Guild from claiming jurisdiction over such work. The natural evolution of the newspaper business argues for adding more online work to the jobs of current Guild members, in order to build on their existing skills, experience, and customer relationships. We think it would be enormously counterproductive, and even self-destructive, for the company to refuse to assign increasing amounts of online work to Guild members. While we would welcome having online work within the Guild’s jurisdiction, and don’t understand the company’s objections to expanding the scope of the bargaining unit, we are willing to make an extended commitment to leaving online assignments at the company’s discretion, because we feel the work can and will flow naturally to Guild members. However, because the Times continues to want to maintain a jurisdictional “wall” around online work, our counterproposal would keep in place the existing protections that prevent unaffiliated online staff from doing traditional Guild work.

Additionally, we proposed our own updated list of excluded positions and a quarterly rather than half-yearly transit subsidy. On expenses, we withdrew our proposal for full compensation for parking at the Denny location, and proposed instead to guarantee the current practice of compensation for 50 percent of cost.

We had some additional discussion with the company team about the needs, goals, and timetables surrounding their very aggressive cost-cutting plan for the Home Delivery department, but we did not make any counterproposal.

Present for the Guild: Ralph Erickson, Karl Neice, Phil Kearney, Darryl Sclater, Darren Carroll.

Present for the Times: Mike Shepard, Martin Hammond, Valerie Inforzato, Leon Espinoza, Mike Sheehan, Rob Petersen.

The Guild's next meeting with the company will be Tuesday, Mar. 19.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please email Administrative Officer Darryl Sclater at, call the Guild office at 206-328-1190, or contact one of the Guild bargaining committee members.

Posted on March 6, 2013 and filed under SEATTLE TIMES, BARGAINING.