Newspaper Guild Plans Thursday Rally

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

Negotiations between Philadelphia Media Network and the Newspaper Guild are apparently going down to the wire.

The two sides reportedly for 11 hours with a federal mediator on Monday, but left appearing little closer to a deal. The current contract between the two sides expires this weekend, and the guild — which includes the journalists of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, as well as members of the advertising, circulation and finance departments — could choose to strike at that time.

Before then, however, workers plan a lunchtime rally on Thursday outside PMN’s Market Street offices, with city and national labor leaders on hand to show their support. Read more »

Here’s What’s at Stake in Newspaper-Union Battle Over Seniority

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The Newspaper Guild’s stance on the seniority question can be found on sarcastic stickers in PMN’s Market Street newsrooms — and on the web.

Who gets to be part of the future of Philadelphia’s biggest, most venerable journalistic enterprise? Young, eager newbies ready to stake their claim to the city? Or older workers who’ve already spent 20, 30 years or more adapting to sweeping changes they never could’ve anticipated at the beginning of their career?

That’s one of the big questions at the heart of the dispute between Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — and the Newspaper Guild that represents the company’s journalists, ad sales staff and other support staffers. Most of the focus on the jammed-up negotiations between the two sides has been about the medical benefits those staffers will receive, but another question — seniority — looms just as large.

The essential conflict is this: The union wants to keep long-held “last-hired first-fired” seniority rules in place, so that long-tenured (read: older, more expensive) journalists aren’t tossed overboard in favor of cheaper, younger labor should the company do layoffs again in the near future. The company, though, says it needs flexibility to keep the workers who contribute best to its vision of 21st century journalism (read: younger, more tech-savvy) — and to more easily shed workers who don’t.

Thus, the impasse. Read more »

(Update) Lenfest Vows to Publish If Journos Strike

Philanthropist H.G. "Gerry" Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

Philanthropist H.G. “Gerry” Lenfest speak at a news conference after a closed-door auction to buy the The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News Tuesday, May 27, 2014, in Philadelphia. Photo | AP, Matt Rourke

(Updated at 7:08 p.m. with Newspaper Guild response.)

The man who owns the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com vowed Thursday to keep publishing if journalists and other workers at those organizations go on strike.

“In the event of a strike, we remain committed to continuing to operate both digitally and in print and will continue to take the steps necessary to address the significant economic challenges that face us and our industry,” Gerry Lenfest, the publisher and owner of Philadelphia Media Network, said in a memorandum distributed to PMN’s employees. Read more »

Newspaper Guild Votes to Begin Strike Preparations

Newspaper Guild leaders Regina Medina and Diane Mastrull, left, count paper ballots for strike authorization, while Bill Ross and Howard Gensler, right, tally up e-mailed votes. The action took place  Wednesday night on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel. (Picture: Joel Mathis)

Newspaper Guild leaders Regina Medina and Diane Mastrull, left, count paper ballots for strike authorization, while Bill Ross and Howard Gensler, right, tally up e-mailed votes. The action took place Wednesday night on the 33rd floor of the Loews Hotel. (Pictures: Joel Mathis)

The Newspaper Guild on Wednesday overwhelmingly voted to begin preparations for a strike against Philadelphia Media Network, the parent company of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

There were two votes — one by employees of the newspapers, and one by workers for Philly.com, who have a separate but similar contract with PMN. Neither vote was particularly close: 263-19 in favor of strike preparations by so-called “main unit” employees; 24-7 in favor by Philly.com workers. Sixty-nine percent of guild membership voted.

“It wasn’t unanimous,” said Howard Gensler, the guild’s president and a gossip columnist for the Daily News, “but it was a very strong, supportive vote we hope sends a message to the company we’re not fooling around.” Read more »

PMN to Newspaper Guild Members: Strike and We Stop Paying You

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

[Updated at 8 p.m. with comment from the Newspaper Guild]

Philadelphia Media Network on Tuesday informed Newspaper Guild employees what they’ll lose if they go out on strike — pay, health benefits, and maybe even unemployment compensation.

“The Company will stop contributing to your health and welfare benefits immediately,” Keith Black, the vice president of human resources, said in a widely distributed memo obtained by Philly Mag. “It is possible that you will have to pay the full cost of your benefits if you would like them to continue.”  Read more »

Newspaper Strike Authorization Vote Set for June 3rd

Photo | Jeff Fusco

Photo | Jeff Fusco

The Newspaper Guild will vote June 3rd whether or not to authorize a strike against Philadelphia Media Network, the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com.

Guild members were notified today that the secret-ballot vote will take place between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday at Loews Hotel, 12th and Market streets. Members unable to vote in person can cast their ballots by email. (See the full memo below.)

The question before guild members:

1) Yes, I authorize the Guild executive board to begin strike preparations
or
2) No, I do not authorize the Guild executive board to begin strike preparations

Read more »

Could Philly Newspapers Survive a Strike?

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

The Newspaper Guild has already printed picket signs in case of a possible strike.

Philadelphia’s two major daily papers — the Inquirer and Daily News, along with their online cousin Philly.com — have survived one calamity after another over the past decade: A radical decline in revenues and circulation, bankruptcy, repeated changes of ownership and repeated airings of dirty laundry.

But can they survive a strike by the Newspaper Guild?

As others have noted, newspaper strikes used to hit this town all the time. But that was back when the newspaper industry was relatively flush. These days? Not so much the case. Yes, employees at Philadelphia Media Network are getting a profit-sharing check this year, but nobody would argue that the business, in Philly and elsewhere, is anything but fragile, and perhaps brittle.

Which raises a question for the journalists, ad sales personnel, circulation and support staffers who are now contemplating walking off the job: Would they have a job to return to?

Outside observers aren’t so sure. Read more »

PMN Promises Newspapers Will Continue If Guild Strikes

The company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com says it will continue to deliver the news even if the Newspaper Guild that journalists and other support staffers goes on strike.

The pledge by Philadelphia Media Network came in a Wednesday memorandum to employees, detailing progress it had made in negotiations with other unions at the company. The full memo is below.

Even if the guild strikes, the memo says, “we will continue to print and deliver important news, interesting features and valuable online content to serve the readers, subscribers and advertisers of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.”

A guild strike authorization vote could come next week. The contract between the union and PMN expires June 27.

See the full text: Read more »

Inquirer Journalists Launch Health Care Petition

newspaper guild

Members of the Newspaper Guild negotiating committee.

Members of the Newspaper Guild have launched a petition to pressure the Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com — to improve its health care proposals to the company’s journalists.

The Change.org petition had 129 signatures as of 8 a.m. today. A strike authorization vote by Guild workers is expected the first week of June. Read more »

UPDATE: Newspaper Journos Agree to Temporary Contract Extension

Updated with comment from the Newspaper Guild.

A possible strike by Philadelphia’s newspaper journalists has been averted, for at least a month: The union that represents them and Philadelphia Media Network, the company that owns the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com, have agreed to extend their expiring contract to June 27. The contract had been set to expire Saturday night.

Read more »

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