In a 104-to-92 vote, newsroom employees at the Contra Costa Times, Oakland Tribune and other East Bay newspapers controlled by MediaNews have voted for representation by the Northern California Media Workers Guild. About 90 percent of the participating staff cast ballots, according to the Chronicle, which said the union spent more than 18 months and $500,000 on a campaign to strengthen its hand at MediaNews.

The Chron said management declined to be interviewed, but issued a written statement: “We feel a union-free environment is best for our employees,” said John Armstrong, president and publisher of Bay Area News Group-East Bay, the company that operates the newspapers. “This has been an emotional experience for everyone involved.” But he said he and other newspaper executives were committed to “moving in a positive direction” with staff.

The Chronicle story contained an unusual disclosure statement at the end: “Full disclosure: Reporter James Temple worked at the Contra Costa Times during and after the MediaNews purchase. Another Chronicle reporter, Carl Hall, went on leave to oversee the organizing drive.”

CORRECTION: We originally reported that only 53 percent of participating staff members cast ballots in the election. That was based on the Chroncle’s report. Sara Steffens, a leader of the union movement, tells us the actual percentage was nearly 90 percent — 196 votes out of a unit of 225 people. The item above has been corrected.

SF Press Club News

One Comment

  1. The union bosses at the Newspaper Guild can now represent East Bay daily newspaper journalists in negotiations over wages and working conditions.

    I believe it’s important to analyze what the union says publicly and compare it
    to their past record and see how their statements and vows hold up over time.

    I intend to inspect the Guild’s promises and comments.

    My first round of comments analyze the Guild’s recent YouTube video production of its gathering in Oakland on 6-13-08 following the vote.

    Here’s what some of the union bosses/leaders said in their comments.

    My take follows each comment:

    MIchael Manekin – San Mateo County Times (legacy ANG paper)
    “We’re ready to get to the bargaining table and kick some ass.”
    Now does that sound like what Sara Steffens & Karl Fischer have been saying?
    I thought they said that they simply wished to “work with management” to make the East Bay newspapers “better.”
    All they wanted was to provide journalists with “a voice” and “a seat at the table.”

    (Never mind that no newspaper guild contracts address the quality of the finished product. They only sketch the working conditions for the employees of a newspaper)

    When you get the union bosses in a candid setting, you start to see that the iron fist might be what was hidden by the velvet gloves that union organizers dangled before East Bay journalists.

    Harry Harris – Oakland Tribune (Legacy ANG paper)
    “It’s obvious that the company’s harassment and intimidation policies didn’t work.”
    Is that the same kind of intimidation as Guild union bosses showing up and harassing — at their residence — the spouse of a BANG-EB journalist? Is that
    the intimidation whereby somebody who wasn’t sure how they would vote was called a “scab” in an e-mail sent by the union bosses? Was that the intimidation Harry
    is talking about?

    Do Harry’s comments signal the confrontational attitude that the union has so carefully cloaked behind its fair-sounding words?

    Carl T. Hall – Guild union boss
    “Some of the opposition arguments make good sense.”
    Only time will tell what that means. Or perhaps this will simply be shown to be more empty words from the union bosses.

    Paul Rosynsky:
    “People wanted protection and the company could not offer or guarantee any kind of protection. And we can.”
    Really? Was that the “protection” that the Guild provided to 100 San Francisco Chronicle journalists — 25 percent of the SFC’s newsroom staff — when Hearst chopped that work force some months ago?

    Was that all the protection that the Guild provided for San Jose Mercury News journalists when first Knight Ridder, and then Media News, eliminated a big
    chunk of the newsroom work force on multiple occasions?

    Was that the protection that the Guild provided to ANG workers through multiple rounds of job cuts and microscopic pay raises over nearly 20 years?

    In the current environment, there are no guarantees. And it’s fool’s gold if some union boss shows you a shiny guarantee.

    We have seen that the union bosses concocted a lot of fair-sounding talk. We’ll eventually learn if those fair words are real or just empty.

    It’s June 2008.
    What has the Guild done for you today?

    -George Avalos
    BANG-East Bay journalist

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