Lee’s proposals vs. our proposals
Lee Enterprises, the new owner of The Buffalo News, has proposed a variety of onerous changes as the Buffalo Newspaper Guild negotiates a new contract for roughly 150 reporters, photographers, copy editors and page designers, customer service representatives, circulation district managers and finance staff.
The proposals would allow Lee Enterprises to lay off union-represented workers regardless of whether there’s any economic need. It would outsource the work done by dozens of full-time and part-time employees. It would eliminate nearly all of the job security protections that the union has fought for over the years. It would slash severance, vacation and sick pay; cut the mileage reimbursement for employees who drive their own cars to deliver the paper or report the news; and freeze workers’ pensions.
And while it demands these terrible changes, Lee Enterprises has refused for months to agree to any meaningful proposals that the Guild has sought.
We ask Buffalo News subscribers and advertisers, community leaders in Western New York, our union brothers and sisters, and the public to learn more about Lee Enterprises contract demands and to help the Guild as it fights for a fair contract.
What Lee Enterprises has proposed
Outsourcing: Outsource the work done by our customer service representatives to Lee Enterprise hubs in Mexico and Oklahoma, where workers are paid less and have no union protection. Our customer service workers help subscribers with newspaper subscription and delivery issues.
Outsource the work done by all our talented newsroom page designers and copy editors to non-union Lee Enterprise hubs in Indiana and Wisconsin. The Buffalo News repeatedly wins international awards for the newspaper’s design. The copy editors write headlines, produce pages and help keep errors from being published.
Outsource the work done by all our workers in the Accounting Department to Lee Enterprises’ non-union hubs in Nebraska and Virginia.
Job Security and Layoffs: The Guild’s current contract allows management to lay off workers “only for economic reasons to remedy the stability of the newspaper.” Our contract also offers certain job protections for long-serving employees.
Lee Enterprises has demanded that language be eliminated so that it has the right to lay off whatever workers it wants for any reason, without justification.
Lee has also proposed eliminating some of the part-time circulation district managers represented by the Guild. Both sides are negotiating the terms under which they might be able to leave voluntarily.
Pension: Lee Enterprises wants the right to freeze the pension plan for Guild members and to merge the Guild’s pension with the pensions established for three other groups of non-Guild workers at The Buffalo News.
The pension for Guild members was so well managed by the prior owner of The Buffalo News that management has not had to contribute any money to the Guild’s pension in at least 20 years.
Yet Lee Enterprises wants to weaken and merge the Guild’s pension with three other pensions that are not as healthy so that Lee doesn’t have to contribute money to other pensions that have nothing to do with ours.
Meanwhile, Lee Enterprises has not proposed contributing a penny to 401(k) accounts for Guild members.
Guild proposals rejected by Lee Enterprises
In addition to demanding onerous concessions from the Guild, Lee Enterprises has rejected almost every meaningful contract proposal made by the Guild.
Among the Guild proposals rejected by Lee Enterprises are:
Digital Jurisdiction: Under the current contract, the Guild does not have jurisdiction over content that is published on buffalonews.com or any other Buffalo News digital platforms even though our members produce the vast majority of that content now.
Lee Enterprises could, if it wanted, block our professional journalists and photographers from producing any online content and instead pay freelancers to do it all.
The Guild has proposed that it be given jurisdiction over content published online so that people who read The Buffalo News on their phones, tablets and computers will continue to have guaranteed access to the professional, high-quality journalism they have come to expect.
Newsroom Diversity Fellowship: Because The Buffalo News newsroom is overwhelmingly white and has struggled to recruit Black and Hispanic journalists, the Guild proposed a new fellowship that would give talented people of color with limited or no journalism experience the opportunity to work at The News for up to two years at a reduced salary as they learn journalism skills.
Lee Enterprises countered with a proposal that effectively makes it possible for The Buffalo News to pay minority journalists with little experience less money than white journalists with the same amount of experience.
Labeling Advertorial Content: Lee Enterprises regularly publishes on buffalonews.com and its social media accounts ads that look like news stories without clearly labeling them as paid sponsored content. Find out more about this issue HERE.