AP's Expired Contract May Explain Much of Its Union-Sympathetic Wisconsin Coverage

While looking into the News Media Guild's positions in the current standoff between it and the Associated Press, I came across the most recent contract (large PDF file) between the two. It expired this past November; unionized AP employees are continuing to work under the old contract's provisions.

Many people don't know that the AP is a "not-for-profit news cooperative" which is "owned by its contributing newspapers (over 1,000), radio and television stations (over 5,000) in the United States." It would appear to be exempt from paying federal, state, and local income taxes (and perhaps others), and as such would seem to have a competitive advantage over any person or entity which might consider competing with it.

I thought readers might be interested in certain of the expired 65-page Editorial Unit contract's provisions, and consider how often such arrangements are available in the private sector (56 other pages which follow relate to Technology Unit, whose contract provisions are very similar; bolds are mine):

(Page 7 -- Article 6, Item 1) "There shall be no dismissals except for just and sufficient cause. The Guild and the employee shall be notified in writing at least four weeks in advance of any dismissal, with the reason for the dismissal stated in such notice, except in cases of proven financial dishonesty, gross insubordination, gross neglect of duty, or gross misconduct in the performance of his/her duties, or where discharge is self-provoked ..."

 

(Page 12 -- Article 6, Item 8) "The Employer will give the Guild not less than six months’ notice prior to the installation of new equipment or machinery generally referred to as automation, provided that such installation would result in a reduction of the staff."

 

(Page 13 -- Article 7, Item 1) "Except as noted herein, dismissal indemnity shall be paid in a lump sum at the rate of two weeks’ of pay for the first six months of service, plus one week’s pay for each subsequent full six months of continuous service up to a maximum of 72 weeks’ pay for 426 months or more of continuous service. Employees who are terminated for poor performance will be paid dismissal indemnity in a lump sum at the rate of one (1) week’s pay for each full 12 months of continuous service up to a maximum of 36 weeks’ pay for 426 months or more of continuous service with the Employer."

 

(Pages 17-21 -- Article 11, Item 8) "Wage Minima." Highlights (in a relatively unusual move, the wire service is permitted to pay more highly valued employees more money; i.e., the AP has de facto merit pay): A two-tiered wage structure for "Newspersons, Photographers, Artists, Cartoonists and Retouchers," wherein people hired in after December 21, 2005 take 6 years to reach full parity with more senior coworkers; "Messengers" with over 1 year of experience earn $720 per week; "Clerks" with over 1 year of experience earn $661 per week; "Office Assistants" with over 1 year of experience earn $591 per week; "Keypunch Operators" with over 2 year of experience earn $726 per week.

 

(Page 23 -- Article 13) "Employees on the Employer’s payroll on March 2, 2009 shall receive a 2 percent increase to their regular weekly salaries." All employees on the payroll got an additional one-time $500 payment in December 2009.

 

(Page 33 -- Article 22, Item 2) "The employee’s birthday will be scheduled as a holiday unless the employee requests a substitute day off. An employee also may select two additional days during the year as personal holidays, to be taken at times mutually acceptable with the Employer."

 

(Page 36 -- Article 23, Item 4) Employees with five or more years of experience get four weeks of vacation.

 

(Page 47 -- Article 27, Item 7) Combined Basic/Premium medical and dental coverage (quite generous in each instance) with premiums of $77/$83 per month for an employee, $202/$228 for employee and spouse, $118/$133 for employee and child, and $297/$335 for employee and family.

 

(Page 49 -- Article 31, Item 1) "Bylines. An employee’s byline or credit line shall not be used over his/her protest."

 

(Page 52 -- Article 31, Item 10) "The Guild shall designate one member of its Human Rights Committee to be the Chairperson who will meet with the Employer twice a year to share ideas."

Last week, "hundreds of AP news workers held rallies across the country and even more withheld bylines in support for the union’s quality journalism proposals."

The Guild has been attempting to generate public support for its bargaining position in its AP negotiations, and to that end has gathered a whopping 8,390 petition signers as of 7:30 p.m. ET.

It would seem that the News Media Guild's case that AP employees are oppressed is not garnering a great deal of support.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.