The News Tribune laid off two employees today, including education reporter Sarah Horner.
It’s a long story. And I’ll preface it by saying that while this comes from someone on the union side of the fence, what follows are facts that I don’t believe the company would protest.
So get on with it
In September, the paper’s guild, which includes reporters, copy editors, advertising reps, customer service reps and many others, approached the management of the paper to seek strategies to save money and avoid layoffs. No response was given until December, when management approached the union about re-opening the contract with the guild to freeze a wage increase and cut a 401k match. The union agreed to enter into the negotiations. We believe this is the first time in the paper’s history that a contract has been re-opened.
What did you guys want?
We were fully willing to accept the concessions if we had something inserted into the contracts that prevented layoffs for a period of time. We asked for a year, generally knowing that would be negotiated downward. We also asked for a one-year extension of the contract.
After we presented our requests, both sides “caucused” a fancy word for going into our respective corners. We assume the management team got on the phone to Fargo, while the union negotiators …. sort of just sat around and waited for a response from the management team. Ultimately, management came back with this reply: the union gets nothing. Take the concessions to your members for a vote up or down.
So why even have the negotiations? Why not just ask for that in the first place?
I … I don’t know. We’re still asking that very question.
What did the union do?
After speaking with our members we decided to take it to a vote, which took some time because we were trying to get the formal request from the company in writing. The vote occurred last week, when the union 1) overwhelming rejected the concessions and 2) nearly unanimously asked the company to go back to the table and work toward a compromise.
Why did the union do that?
Generally because we want to take these concessions, but we want a protection against layoffs in return.
How did the company respond?
With the layoffs. This despite the union going to management after the vote and saying that we’ll take even more in concessions than the company initially requested in exchange for layoff protection, including furloughs. Obviously the company said no.
Ok, so why are you telling us this?
Because the union is looking for your support (oh, and here’s where we start in with the opinion, and where the company generally won’t agree with the union). During the negotiations, we were told that the News Tribune is still profitable, and yet management in Fargo continues to keep cutting staff and lowering the quality of the product. We are not immune to the complaints of readers that the News Tribune has slipped significantly in quality in recent years. Quite simply, this is because Fargo has slashed our staffing to the bone. Since I started working at the the paper nearly four years ago — and Forum has owned the paper nearly that entire time — the staffing levels in the newsroom have been nearly cut in half.
The journalists that remain are dedicated, passionate and love this paper, but we are heartbroken that we do not get the support from Fargo to run the best possible newspaper that this community needs and deserves.
We want to get a message out to Forum that these layoffs must stop, and that they must start working with the union to find other ways to cut costs and save money. Again: we are more than willing and ready to do that. We’d just like something in return, like the promise of saving jobs.
So what can we do?
Write letters to the editor protesting the continued cuts at the News Tribune. Write a letter to Forum owner Bill Marcil at [email protected] and tell him these continued cuts are unacceptable. Stand with us or support us as we hold information pickets (time, date, TBA). And thank you for reading this.
Leave a Comment
Only registered members can post a comment , Login / Register Here