Union Votes on new Contract with KGW

The union that represents the Photographers at KGW in Portland is voting on a new contract with the station. 

The negotiations between the two sides has not gone well and the union head is advising the Shooters to vote no on the proposed contract. 

Here is the email, obtained by FTVLive and sent by union leader Dave Twedell to the union members in which he recommends that they reject the contract: 

Good day, KGW Members,

Tonight and tomorrow we will be voting on what the company is labeling its "Best" offer.  I don't know how "best" it can be, because their Negotiator, Tim Fair, said on June 28 that there was room to adjust the deadline for the enhanced retirement.  Whatever.  The legal term for the end of negotiations is "Last, Best and Final" -- and there is no legal significance to the term, "Best" offer.

It is possible that they mean that they will not make a more lucrative offer.  But on the most important part of the negotiation -- jurisdiction -- we offered them language that was better for them, based on what they say they want, and they turned that down without any substantive discussion.  In May of last year, we offered full cross-utilization of all personnel, whether union members or not, whether employees or not -- so long as the current number of employees remained on the payroll.  This was dismissed out of hand, with nothing more than these words:  "You are trying to protect the unborn."

This phrase was repeated several times by Tim Fair over the last year, referring to our proposals to trade flexibility for job security.  On our last session, I spelled it out for him one more time.  In other contracts, we have agreed to allow other people to shoot video so long as they maintain the current number of photographers.  If the head count were to fall, the company would lose the right to use other shooters.  We cannot recommend to our members that they accept a contract that is guaranteed to shrink the union work force over time -- and there can be no other possible outcome of granting them the right to let others do our work.

I believe that they company has not bargained in good faith.  They have not made a single substantive change in their demand that we give up all jurisdiction over photography and editing in 14 bargaining sessions, including two in Federal Mediation.  We have offered several approaches that would tie greater flexibility in assigning work (what they say they want) to job security -- and every time they angrily refuse to discuss the proposals.

On May 10 of this year, we confronted them about the Fresco program that was lauded in USA Today:


Tim Fair was incredulous that we would have a problem with this.  "Why wouldn't we want to take advantage of more content?"  He went on to state in plain English that their language would allow it.

At $50 a story -- what Fresco, Uber for a news platform, pays -- how long will they keep a professional work force on board?

Here is a point by point explanation of the Company proposal.
1.  Term of Agreement.  We think the contract should start when the old one expired.  We are still proposing retroactive pay and a reasonable raise.

2.  Wages.  We believe that 1.5% a year is too low.

3.  Signing Bonus.  $250.  LOL.

4.  PTO Overpayments.  This is bizarre.  At the start of 2015, the new owners abolished Belo Benefits and the contractual PTO system.  We filed Unfair Labor Practice Charges with the Federal Government in response, as did IBEW at KING and KGW.  The Feds differed the cases to arbitration, and IBEW won the PTO issue and lost on health care at both stations.  After absorbing those two defeats, the Company proposed that we settle our case against them with the same pattern -- reinstate PTO and make members whole while accepting that our contract did not give us any claim on the Belo health plan.  We agreed, in principle.

But we have not been able to close out the details.  And now they are tying the settlement of our case to the contract, trying, yet again, to pressure you into giving up your jurisdiction by their own misconduct.  It is shameless.

We had proposed a formula for making the remedy come out equal -- most of our members got beaten out of PTO days under the new regime, while about four or our people came out ahead, due to the Tegna vacation schedule giving them an extra week of vacation.  Their counter is an effort to split those four people off from the group by offering to forget about their extra vacation days in exchange for giving up jurisdiction.

Anybody see a pattern here?

5.  Voluntary Retirement.  They refuse to offer the benefit that they have trumpeted nationwide to any member of any union that keeps its jurisdiction.

Anybody see a pattern here?

6.  Jurisdiction.  They demand the right to assign other people to do our work, whenever they want, with no limitation.

The alleged protections allow the Union to take legal action to make somebody who is shooting or editing "too much" join the union.  The phrase Tim Fair used constantly is "Primary Duties" and we asked him to define that -- and he refused.  We specifically asked if "Primary Duties" means more than 50%?  After some equivocation, Tim Fair clearly stated that 50% is not the standard.

So there is no way to define what it takes to force some amateur to join the union.

I also asked him what are the primary duties of an MMJ?  Are they photography?  Reporting?  Editing?  No, no and no, were the answers.  In fact, if you look down to their proposal on MMJs, you find this sentence:

". . .(MMJ") or similar duties are an integral part of the broadcast journalism and an integral part of every bargaining unit employee's job."

So everybody is an MMJ and the primary duties of an MMJ are not photography, even if it constitutes more than half your work.

Anybody see a pattern here?

7.MMJ.  We went to a lot of trouble to work out a limited number of MMJs under the shared jurisdiction of IATSE and SAG AFTRA.  This language would make everybody an MMJ, and make sure all new hires are non-union.

8. No substance.  See 7.

9.  Subcontract.  This allows them to hire another company to shoot some or all video for the station.  Reason enough to vote the contract down, without even considering the jurisdiction issue.

10. Trainees.  Finally something that we don't have to fight over.  Increases the number of Trainees allowed.

11. Company Name.  Tegna it is, unfortunately.

12. PTO.  This undoes our legal victory and goes back to Tegna vacation, holiday and sick days.

13.  Health Care.  Company plan.

14.  Re-opener Clause.  We have a tentative agreement to make it easier to notify the other side of a desire to open the contract for re-negotiation when it expires.

15. Successors and Assigns.  They withdraw their demand to remove the clause that attempts to bind anyone hiring the station to honor the contract.  This is a very minor step because such a clause does not necessarily bind a new owner.

In all, this proposal is a formula for destroying your union.  At its very best, you have to take on faith that they will not do what the language clearly allows them to do -- to create new multi-tasking positions that are non-union, and to shift part or all of the station's work to these non-union positions.  Their "protections" would only apply if they were stupid enough to lay you off on the exact same day that they hired a multi-tasker.  Otherwise, they can easily separate the layoffs in time from the hiring, and eventually they get what they clearly want -- an amateur workforce, an Uber for a new platform

This vote comes two weeks after we got the Seattle City Council to call out Tegna as operating against the public interest with its drive for amateur news AND calling for public entities to divest themselves of Tegna stock.

Next we will get similar legislation passed in Portland.  With that in hand, we begin our serious contention with the company.  When we started this fight at the end of 2014 I said it would take a long time.  It is taking a long time, for sure.  The idea is to make management realize that we are united and that they will never rag us or divide us into something foolish.

I recommend a NO vote.  In all my years in the labor movement I have never seen a more ridiculous management proposal.