September 29, 2006 E-MAIL PRINT

Harborside: He Said What?


IAPE wanted to take an opportunity to respond to the points raised in management's "You Don't Need A Union" memo of September 28th.

I fully expected Dow Jones to make an effort to convince you not to join IAPE. After all, the company has a vested interest in a non-union workforce and the "flexibility" of "at-will" employees without the restrictions of a contract.


My "vested interest?" To win more money, better benefits, stronger job protections and improved working condition for my fellow employees of Dow Jones. I'm employee just like you are ( a newscaster on the Wall Street Journal Radio Network, on "leave" for my term as president, after which, I'll return to the job.) When I talk about your contract, I'm talking about mine, as well.

The rest of the IAPE leadership? Their bio's are right here.

Ready? Let's take a look at that memo.

Management says: "[T]here's no difference in wages or benefits" between tandem and union employees.

Wrong. IAPE members wages are guaranteed in legally binding contract. Your wages are given at the pleasure of management.

The say you get the same, but you don't. For instance union members, if forced to work on their days off, get time-and-a-half (premium pay), even if it's not over time and even if they aren't "overtime eligible" employees as defined by federal labor law.

Management says: "Tandem employees are in the same job titles and wage scales as union employees and receive the same pay increases as union employees."

False. How many of you have ever worked "out of title," meaning you do the job of a better-paid title but still get paid at your old salary. The company does this all the time — but when they do it to union employees, we can fight back. That's because our contract provides for a promotion and pay hike if your job morphs into something with more responsibility. And when the company tries it on union members, we can get it fixed and get back pay for our members. Just ask the graphics folks in reprints at Dow Jones.

Management says: "Instead of being tied to rigid contract rules, our managers in Harborside can be more creative, and take individual circumstances into account without worrying about setting a precedent that could trigger a later union grievance."

True. Without the protection of a contract, managers can get real creative, like laying off good people for bad reasons.And what is a "union grievance?" It's simply an assertion of the rights outlined in the contract. A grievance is simply a vehicle to ensure you're being treated fairly.

Management says: "Tandem employees enjoy flexibility in their relationship with their managers and with the Company... Tandem employees can go directly to their managers to discuss workplace issues without having to work solely through union representatives."

As Screen Actors Guild President Ronald Reagan said, there you go again. The fact is, nothing in the IAPE contract prohibits Dow Jones managers from being creative in good ways, taking individual employees' needs into account, allowing flexible work schedules, or having an open-door policy.

Nothing prevents a manager from paying a union member more than the contract sets out, or providing better working conditions. The contract only sets a floor — never a ceiling.

Managers throughout Dow Jones have good relations with their IAPE-member employees. In the end, it usually just depends on the manager — and isn't that the case where you work, too?

At least with a union, IAPE members have a place to turn when their boss is unfair, breaks the rules, or generally doesn't treat his or her employees right.

Management says: "The Company also provides to Tandem employees the benefit of compensation adjustments included in the union agreement. So, for instance, when the Company provided a cost-of-living wage adjustment of .5% to IAPE represented employees pursuant to the union contract, it made the same adjustment for Tandem employees in Harborside."

Half the story. First a company lawyer told the union the company wasn't going to pay the increase even to union staff, claiming that inflation wasn't as high as the government reported. (Trying to save some $600,000 by calculating the cost of living adjustment on a calendar year, instead of the "contract year" that was clearly stated in the contract.) We made it clear we'd fight them— and we won. But it then took them 4 days of private top-level management meetings and number-crunching to decide to give the increase to Harborside folks. I believe they gave you — and MarketWatch— the increase only because of IAPE's organizing efforts, knowing that withholding the increase would drive you into our arms that much faster.

Oh yeah, the company never gave the increase to managers. I bet some of them wish they could be in the union.

Management says: "Tandem employees at Dow Jones historically have received the same benefits as IAPE-represented employees."

Wrong again. For a full year, Harborside employees, managers and other non-IAPE workers paid more for their health-care, and got less, while IAPE was negotiating its last contract. IAPE members kept the old, cheaper, better plan in the meantime. At the same time, management explicitly threatened to create two separate but unequal benefit plans — one for union members, one for everyone else.

In the end, the plan IAPE negotiated was better than what everyone else was stuck with for a year. The cost difference in a year of premiums, incidentally, more than made up for several years of union dues — now that's getting your money's worth. (And remember, IAPE won't charge Harborside members dues for a full year after getting organized.)

Management says: "Signing an authorization card is, in essence, a "vote" for the union."

Of course it's a "vote" for the union (we made that clear when we described the process in the very first email. No one from IAPE is trying to mislead you.) But it's more than just a vote for the union it's a vote to finally have a real say in your pay, your benefits, your job security and your working conditions— and no longer depend on two forces beyond your control or influence to determine your economic future. As a member of IAPE you'll have a voice in setting union policy, determining bargaining positions, you'll be able to vote on contracts, elect new leadership or if you want, leave the union. IAPE — unlike a company — is a democratic institution.

Management says: Dues are "a maximum of $540 per year."

That's only half the story. Only a few people $540 a year and those are the absolute highest paid employees. For most IAPE members, dues are a lot lower. Our average member, making around $55,000 a year, pays about $385 a year, or $7.40 a week. Do the math: multiply your base by .007. The most anyone will ever pay in dues is $10.38 a week— and that's if you're making $78,000 a year.

The IAPE dues rate is the lowest by far in the industry. The Times union pays more than twice that.

And as for management’s math, it's voodoo economics all over again. Last we checked, 0.7% of a 3% raise doesn't reduce the raise to 2%.

For someone making $60,000 a year— and you get a 3% increase— your pay would increase by $1800 a year while the total amount of dues you'd pay (the rate never changes) would increase by a total of $12.60 for the year. Not per week or per paycheck, but $12.60 for the entire year. Under management's example that $1800 increase would have to be reduced to $1200 to support that fantasy of 3% becoming 2%. That won't happen— and one would expect better math skills from the world's premier source of business news.

Management says: Dues are paid in "after-tax dollars."

Yes. But what the company doesn't tell you is that dues are tax deductible, just like the interest on your mortgage or the charitable donations you give. So if you're in the 28% tax bracket, reduce your dues by that much to figure your real contribution for getting union raises and job protections.

Management says: "Only the Company can make decisions about eliminating jobs or laying off employees."

Not quite. The company has discretion when it comes to "reductions in force," or economic layoffs. But it has to follow procedures in the contract that protect union members who have shown the company loyalty with years of service. The contract also guarantees severance, retraining allowances and the chance to be on a "rehire list," should the company's fortunes turn back up. Try asking for that as a "tandem."

When it comes to firings, "tandem" employees can be given the old heave-ho at any time for any reason or more likely no reason at all. That means you're an "at will" employee — at the will of management. If your boss doesn't like you, he or she can send you out without a word and without notice.

Union members, by contrast, get protection. The company has to provide "cause" for a termination, meaning it has to follow a disciplinary procedure where you get the chance to defend yourself and your performance.

Management says: "Tandem employees already have the same rights to overtime as everyone else.. and there's nothing the union you can do that the company isn't already doing."

The company seems to be implying that if you're entitled to overtime, you'll automatically be paid overtime— just like IAPE-represented employees elsewhere at Dow Jones. That's not true.

To get overtime, you have to file for overtime (you have to actually write it on your timesheet) and your boss has to approve it. That's the case for all Dow Jones employees. There's nothing automatic about.

If any employee wants to "contribute" extra hours to Dow Jones without requesting extra compensation, Dow Jones is willing to accept that "gift."

Under the IAPE contract, overtime is based on a 35-hour work week, federal law provides OT after 40 hours— and working on your day off triggers "premium pay" (time and a half with guaranteed minimums. There is no such requirement under federal law.

And if legitimate overtime is rejected — and I'm sure we all know of bosses who have tried to protect their own budgets and bonuses by telling employees they're not entitled to this-or-that— you've got a union who can plead your case with the right to grieve and go to arbitration.

Friends, for these and a whole list of other reasons, you need to be in a union. You need to sign and send in that Union Card.

He Said What?, Part Two: There He Goes, Again.

As always, if you have any questions, you can call me at 609-220-5951.

Steve Yount

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