The Dec. 20 negotiating session between the Guild and the Company in Skokie was brief, undertaken with the reverberations of the explosion Jim Kirk set off only minutes before our meeting still shaking the room.
If we were shell-shocked by the news that Kirk has received Tim Knight’s blessing to “consolidate our news editing and production units into our headquarters downtown”, and to close most physical locations outside of downtown, so were our counterparts across the table. If we were reeling upon getting word that reporters in every unit could lose their desks for mobile offices, that editors from Waukegan, Glenview, Joliet, Gary and our other locations may well be working downtown, so were they.
Ted Rilea, the Company’s vice president of labor relations, admitted that his team did not know what the plan was, because there is none, at least not until Kirk solidifies it.
In so many words, Rilea made it clear that this changes everything, but that “everything” is still a mystery.
We agreed to continue work on the confidentiality agreement that will allow us to look at Wrapports/Sun Times Media’s financial books, and we agreed on the next negotiating date, January 25, then adjourned.
We have a lot to do.
The sea change Jim Kirk announced will transform the landscape in which we work. It doesn’t mean the company is free of its obligation to end the Memorandum of Understanding; to restore our lost wages and make us whole; to recognize our rights to job security through restored seniority and jurisdiction provisions.
In fact, this move makes it clearer than ever that the Company is dealing with one body of editorial workers, no matter where they work, and expects that body of workers to save one unified company – as we did in 2009.
We deserve to be recognized for stepping in again. All of us: editorial assistants in Pioneer Press’s soon-to-vanish Glenview newsroom and reporters covering the courts in Indiana; photographers serving Lake County at the News-Sun; reporters in Joliet and folks on the Sun Times layout desk. All of us, together.
If the Company desires such remarkable – and necessary – unification, let it recognize one unified contract with unified rights and benefits.
The Guild team is meeting Jan. 7 to review its initial offer in the light of our vastly changed situation. We will keep you updated on where our review leads us. We meet again with the company on Jan. 25, at 9:30 a.m. in the Chicago Newspaper Guild’s office and we urge you all to attend, at least for a few minutes, if you can do so.
We are professionals and we will rise to the challenge of a new and unified company. But we expect the company to meet its responsibilities to us.
Let Guild President David Pollard tell it in his own words:
As you all know Dec. 20 brought with it some interesting news.
Well, what else is new? The honchos at Sun-Times Media have been talking about this since they’ve been in place.
The fact still remains that the “MOU Must Go.”
Still, I feel a bit more encouraged by this so-called change, and here’s why.
I know some of you look at some of the things the company wants to do as inconvenient – but at the same time they are acknowledging that we truly are one news gathering organization.
If you want me to come downtown and work, then I should be on equal footing with the person I may be sitting next to. That’s only fair. And in so many words they’ve acknowledged that. If they need a reminder, I’m sure we can provide more than one.
I know change is often hard to deal with, but I hope you all will approach the new year with an open and determined mind, alongside your Guild colleagues.
The biggest obstacle to our strength and rights has been the separate units (Sun-Times, Pioneer Press, Joliet etc.) that we’ve worked under for so long. We’ve grown accustomed to that separation, but now the Company sees it as a hindrance. Why? Because the company wants copy, fast, and wants to put it on the web, out on the apps and in the paper as quickly as possible. And it wants to use ALL of our copy.
Tim Knight and Jim Kirk and the Company honchos want the walls down to do this. We must let them know we are willing to cooperate with each other, regardless of where we have spent most of our time in the past, and that we can adapt to change, but that change goes both ways.
Let’s not forget that as we move forward together as a unit and a Guild.
In the meantime, I’m wishing you and yours a very happy holiday season.
As are we all. Yours, in solidarity,