Guild corrects SFBG, invites freelancers to join union

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Carl Hall, the Chronicle’s California Media Workers Guild representative, just emailed me, regarding my article in today's newspaper about the future of journalism

Hall wrote to point out that I had inaccurately reported that the Guild has “voted to accept 150 layoffs and accept seniority considerations” at the Chronicle.

But as Hall notes, “Our contract like most guild contracts does not contain any prohibition against layoffs, and there's not been any requirement that the employer obtain our agreement before laying anyone off. We voted to lift seniority protection against layoff in exchange for severance – that’s the new part. We also voted a number of other changes to reduce costs one way or another.”

“One other detail you might not realize,” Hall continued, “is that the Guild contract already had a provision allowing the management to protect up to 25% of low-seniority employees in a layoff round, meaning they could keep those individuals because of their importance in the operation and lay off more senior employees instead.”

Hall said he was saying all this because he continues to see, “everybody claiming that we voted to accept layoffs, when in fact we did not.”

“The company told us they were prepared to implement layoffs of about 225 of our members, with no severance, or close the paper or sell it, in which case all 500 of us would risk being laid off, with no severance,” Hall explained. “Maybe we could have chosen some suicidal path of bluff-calling or whatever, but our members chose the path we are on -- a selfless choice for the senior people who nearly all voted to open themselves up to more individual layoff risk for a mere one year's pay.”

“As a union however we did not vote to accept 150 layoffs,” Hall stated. “ We expect that number will be laid off because of this management's short-sighted, destructive business plan and failure to make the Chronicle thrive as a top-quality paper, in print and online. I don’t hold any particular ill will toward the Hearst Corp., and credit them for the patience they have shown over these past few years when they've tolerated purported losses far exceeding those being reported elsewhere.”

Hall ended by saying that he was, “encouraging our members and the entire community to focus on what truly matters -- quality jobs and quality journalism, and yes we do see a quality connection between the jobs and the journalism. (i.e., no reliance on "volunteers" or low-paid exploited at-will news workers, such as may be the case at the anti-union outfits such as -- cheap shot alert! -- the SFBG.)

"In a word, here's the plan," Hall stated. " Organize! If you want to start, we will show you how."

The Guild is holding its first meeting of its newly formed freelancers unit at Noon, Friday April 3. Third-floor conference room, California Media Workers. 433 Natoma Street, San Francisco.

For more information, or to R.S.V.P., check out the Guild’s site here, where you can also watch the video of the Society of Professional Journalists' March 17 "Conversation about the Chronicle<" in which 15 panelists brainstormed about the crisis currently affecting the newspaper industry,