April 22, 2010

Contract Ratification: Vote YES

A message from IAPE President Steve Yount — In line with the unanimous endorsement from the IAPE Board of Directors, your co-workers representing Dow Jones locations across the US and Canada, I'm writing to urge that you vote 'yes' on the new contract with Dow Jones.

Your ballot will be emailed to your Dow Jones email address (or alternate address if you have provided one) by True Ballot.com. The polls will be open from the moment your ballot arrives Monday, April 26, 2010 until noon on Friday, April 30, 2010.

The elected officers of IAPE, the full Bargaining Committee and the full Board of Directors believe a 'yes' vote is in the best interest of the coworkers we represent.

I wanted to share a few highlights of the package.

First, it's important to understand where we started: The company began the bargaining demanding a blanket waiver on every key issue in the contract: health care, wages, severance, vacation time, retirement, disability plans, time off and seniority rights. Everything. If you can think of it, the company wanted it covered by a 'me-too'. We'd get the same thing it decided to give to non-union folks.

We beat back every one of those blanket waivers.

All of the protections we've known for years are still in the contract, written down and enforceable , largely because you and your coworkers made it clear to management that blanket waivers were an unacceptable 'gutting' of the contract.

The new package provides a change in health care plans while providing coverage that is the same as, or better than, the existing package — and for more than 90% of IAPE members it'll mean lower premiums. In many cases, premiums are being rolled back to the levels of 2008.

Just as importantly, those premiums are frozen for the next year and a half — and the coverage benefits are guaranteed not to change for the same period. After that, there are strict caps on the changes in premiums, but even in the worst-case scenario the changes are going to be smaller than the 48% increase we saw in premiums from 2008 to 2010. At the same time, we've negotiated the restrictions on future changes in coverage to guarantee that plans will not be gutted, benefits eliminated or coverage priced beyond reach.

This contract enhances severance pay. We've added more weeks for shorter-term employees, we've maintained the 4 weeks extra severance and the retraining allowances for outsourcing and we've added 'out-placement' services to the package. We’ve also extended, company-subsidized, health care so that it'll now track your years on the job and instead of being capped at nine months, it'll be capped at 12 months.

We've protected seniority.
The company wanted the right to fire anyone for any reason, regardless of their years on job. They didn't get that. Under the new package, seniority rights will vest after 2 years on the job — and after that 2 year vesting period you'll be grouped with others in your job title, department and location in one-year clusters. Your seniority rights are still recognized — and you're still protected from a short-sighted manager when you're no longer 'the flavor of the month.' And for 'outliers', those news employees in the bureaus across the country who find themselves as the only one in their title, in their department in that location, they can for the first invoke 'telecommuter rights' and win the protection of the larger seniority pool at the 'home' office for that particular department.

We've won immediate increases in shift differential and stand-by pay and we have re-worked premium pay to ensure that, for overtime eligible folks, they'll be paid for everything they work — no matter where the work is done, and for the overtime exempt folks, they'll get cash if they have to go to the office or another location — and will get 'comp-time' for work at home with the comp time logged at the rate of time and a half — and if that earned time off isn't scheduled with-in 90 days, it'll be paid out in cash.
No more arguments. No more unenforceable private deals. No more confrontations.

We've increased the threshold for figuring minimum wage increases — and we've raised the threshold for selling back a week of vacation: going forward, anyone who makes a thousand dollars a week or less — and that's almost 30% of the membership— will be able to sell back a week of vacation to the company.

To be absolutely honest about it, I have some disappointments with this package.

We won't see any general increase in wages until July 1st 2011 — and then it'll be a 2% increase in each of the following three years — with COLA protection maintained. It's less than I wanted — and less than you deserve — but it's more than anyone else in the news-business is getting right now.

The Money Purchase Plan is going away. We negotiated another 6-month payment to be made in January 2011 — but that's it. That extra payment is more than non-union folks and managers got, but when that check comes, it'll be the last one.

I'm as disappointed with that loss as much as anyone — but when bargaining began 33% of the membership had never received a Money Purchase contribution — and most of those folks were looking at a 2% contribution when they did qualify. More than half of those folks weren't going to see anything , ever, from the Money Purchase Plan. At the bargaining table, it quickly became a question of holding onto what we could. The extra half-year was what we could hold onto.

For the newer employees (54% of the membership has been here less than 5 years) an increase from 5% to 7.5% in the 401(k) contributions might offset the loss (employees have to boost contributions to get the maximum company match,) but for the rest of us — the longer-term employees — the end of the MPP is money we can't replace. I know that. The Bargaining Committee knows that. We tried everything we could think of — and the only thing that got any traction was the additional half-year payment.

The company is continuing its effort to shed as much responsibility as possible for retiree health care — we don't represent retirees so there's little we can do — other than set the terms under which folks walk out. Company-subsidized retiree health care will continue to be offered but it is less than was available under the current package. Because of that, we've negotiated a retirement window through the end of September 2010 during which you can retire with the current subsidies.

As I've said, there are things about this contract that I don't like — but I'll guarantee you, it's better than anyone else in this business is getting right now — and it's much better than what we'd be looking at if this package is rejected.

I'm going to vote for this — warts and all. Everyone on the Bargaining Committee is voting for this package — warts and all. And the IAPE Board of Directors has unanimously recommended that you do the same.

Vote 'yes' when your ballot arrives Monday.

Steve Yount

We've posted a Contract FAQ on the website, responding to the typical questions we've heard from members, along with a point-by-point comparison between the new contract and the old contract.