Thursday, October 18, 2012

Detroit | Union nixes contract concessions: 'We are down to the Marines, and the Marines need a raise'

Labor unions representing employees at the struggling Detroit newspapers are pushing back on management's proposed two-year contracts that would include only merit raises, rather than across-the-board increases, plus costly changes to medical plans.

On Monday, the two sides met for the first time over new contracts that would replace those set to expire  Nov. 13. The negotiations cover employees in editorial, circulation and the pressroom at the Gannett-owned Detroit Free Press, MediaNews Group's Detroit News, and the Gannett-controlled Detroit Media Partnership.

In a bulletin to union members, negotiators noted that employees covered by the contract hadn't received raises since January 2008. Indeed, they said employees had agreed to pay cuts in November 2010, and also accepted health care concessions that included higher premiums. Last month, the Detroit operations eliminated about 70 jobs through buyouts.

Now, union negotiators say, they won't accept any more concessions.

"The employees have given enough already,'' the bulletin says. "We made sacrifices so the company could deal with changes in readership and advertising and the economic recession. We gave the company breathing room to deal with the new realities of the industry."

GCI's most fragile market
The bulletin continues: "The employees who are left are expected to do a lot more with less, and they are doing it. Now we are down to the Marines, and the Marines need a raise."

Detroit is GCI's most financially challenged market. The dominant auto industry is still recovering after the bankruptcies of Chrysler and General Motors, while the city and surrounding Wayne County have lost 300,000 residents since 1990. At 9.3% in September, the statewide unemployment rate remains one of the nation's highest.

In a risky bid to reduce further losses in 2009, the Detroit Media Partnership -- which handles advertising sales and other business operations for the two dailies -- ended home delivery for all but three advertising-rich days.


  1. .. and the state's unemployment rate used to be much worse. The future of the Detroit 3 automakers are, by no means, guaranteed. They need to be much better at engineering, manufacturing, and leadership -- lot better.

    No jobs -- no one cares about the local newspaper. They care about getting out.

  2. Bad analogy by the unionistas. You're NOT the Marines, although you ARE in a war zone.

    Look around. You're in freaking DETROIT. Houses - mansions - can be had for $50,000. NO ONE IS BUYING. No one wants to be there.

    Your only successful industry is sports teams. You don't have a supermarket anywhere near downtown.

    You are NOT the Marines. You are on The Titanic. You can choose to get in a lifeboat and be uncomfortable. Or you can do what Astor and Smith and the band did, and go down with the ship.

  3. Marines find a way - I have the greatest respect for the Corp - where everyone is a rifleman first and no one is left behind.

    If the union brought that to the table and didn't kvetch about job classifications, seniority, etc etc, the analogy would work better.

    As it is, who in Detroit is going to bother canceling their subscription in solidarity if there's a strike? What's the point? Could anyone tell the difference?

  4. Today, "Newsweek" may announced, it will abandon printing and go all-digital.

    Stopping Detroit home delivery was "risky?"

    Hardly -- more like leadership. Especially in a town where two of five houses have been destroyed by bums. Ever seen the movie "8 Mile?" Like that.

    Oh, and the city of Detroit is basically bankrupt, with at least 10% of the police force expected to be laid off. So much for "we saved Detroit."

    Easy to blame others -- happens every day. Lot harder to actually do something to fix the mess.

  5. Perhaps Gannett would welcome a strike. It would give them the opportunity and justification to shutter the freep OR offload it on the super cheap.

  6. Marines?

    Marines wouldn’t abandon their post. Unions do!

    Marines wouldn’t threaten to not do their job if outnumbered. Unions do!

    Marines wouldn’t refuse to do their jobs unless they were paid more. Unions do!

    Marines wouldn’t demand medals for all, just those who’ve earned them. Unions do!

    Marines put their lives on the line every day; this union does not and it’s absolutely disgraceful that they’re attempting to wrap Marines honor and valor around what they seek now.

    Frankly, union actions like these only further weaken a position that in light of Detroit’s significant decline likely isn’t worth holding on to for long. Unions often care little about that, if at all.

  7. What Gannett takes with one hand, it also takes with the other.

  8. Semper Fi Deeetroit. semper friggin fi!!!!

  9. I am a GPS Press Supervisor. I say fire every over paid press operator, And hire a hand full former GCI press ops who are out of work from layoffs, and pay them a decent wage, not a riduculus wage. The union shops in Gannett are taking down the ship. TIME FOR THEM TO GO.
    And this includes the Press manager in Indy and his night manager who pull in a combined $195,000 for 2 over payed clowns.

    1. Just what is a " decent " wage?

  10. Tell us what the average reporter with ten years experience and the average press operator with ten years experience earns in Detroit. We'd like to feel your pain.

  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  12. If you think the Detroit Free Press workers have not received a raise in a while, the carriers that deliver the papers have taken pay cuts after pay cuts, doing many things for free. The carriers also are the end of the line and have to deal with everyone who wants to slow the process down and make up the time by going faster.

  13. 8:40 here. Still waiting

  14. To 8:40 Can'y say for a writer, But a deceiantnt wage for a Press op is between $18 to $25 per hour, depends on the size of the shop and location and the press equipment.
    Like i said In Indianapolis the avg. Press op make $28 per hour, which is decent for that area. The rub is they have a Press manager making $105K and a night manager making $90k, 4 asst. managers who do nothing making $65 k a year. That is some serious over staffing and over paying

  15. Good luck to them. At my local paper they didn't care about any of the workers and most of them are gone now. Not replaced by cheaper or better just gone.

  16. The Detroit union is to Marines as the Ladies Lingerie League is to the NFL


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