Photographers, VJs protest AP’s expenses proposal

In a letter delivered Tuesday, more than 75 photographers and video journalists told the Associated Press they wouldn’t use their cars for work if the company insists on a change to expenses that would cost some staffers thousands of dollars.

“Many of us look at the proposal, shaking our heads and wondering just how and why we are expected to supply what, in effect, is a fleet of lease cars out of our own pockets,” the letter reads. “The only alternatives for many will be to use rental cars, taxis and public transportation.”
Bargainers for the News Media Guild gave the letter, accompanied by 12 photos of the equipment that photographers and VJs cram into their cars, during bargaining.

Photographers and VJs now receive a $103.25 weekly car allowance. AP wants to cut that to a weekly, taxable stipend of $33. The company wants them to sign affidavits that they’ll make their personal vehicle available for business any time the company wishes for at least a year.
For other staffers, AP wants to eliminate the $15 daily minimum and instead pay the IRS business mileage rate, which is 56 cents for 2014.

The letter says photographers and VJs use their cars as rolling offices “that we are expected to make available 24-7. The company expects us to jump in the car and race to spot news and other assignments, often times with a reporter in tow.”
If the AP’s proposal becomes part of the contract and photographers and VJs don’t use their own cars, then they would have to leave camera gear in their bureaus and go there to pick it up when news breaks. “This is unacceptable but unavoidable if we are saddled with extra personal vehicle costs,” the letter says.

Also Tuesday, the Guild and AP were meeting off-the-record as part of an attempt to reach terms on an overall contract.