Author Archives: Eileen Connelly

Guild reviews sudden layoffs of 14 at AP

The News Media Guild is reviewing the layoffs of 14 staffers to make sure The Associated Press followed the contract when releasing the workers with no notice.

Kicked Out

The layoffs were abrupt because the AP chose to give four weeks of notice pay rather than let staffers work out four more weeks.

The AP laid off the 14 solo correspondents, photographers and bureau workers on Dec. 9, bringing the total number of Guild-covered staffers losing their jobs with the company during the holiday season to 35. AP offered buyouts in the 21 other job losses and just one person was laid off.
“In the cases where people were laid off in bureaus of more than one person or one person in their job classification, the Guild is asking the AP why buyouts weren’t offered, as the contract requires,” Guild President Martha Waggoner said. “The union can’t typically prevent layoffs, but we will make sure the contract is followed and that the laid-off staffers get all the severance and other pay owed to them.”

Employees in one person bureaus should be offered vacancies elsewhere that they are able to perform, if available, she added.
The layoffs were abrupt for some because the AP chose to give four weeks of notice pay rather than let people work for four more weeks. Staffers were told they were losing their jobs and were out the door quickly, causing managers to rearrange news coverage.
In the case of one layoff, managers scrambled to find someone to travel to and cover a major trial because the reporter who had covered the trial was among those who lost their jobs.
One Guild member who lost his job said the layoffs show the value of the union.
“The company’s not paying severance to me and the others who were laid off out of some sense of compassion,” the staffer wrote. “It’s paying because the contract that we all worked for, that we support with our dues every paycheck, requires them to pay.

“The union can’t typically prevent layoffs, but we will make sure the contract is followed and that the laid-off staffers get all the severance and other pay owed to them.”

– Martha Waggoner, Guild President

“Anybody who’s working at AP should realize that their job’s not safe. When their manager calls them in with no warning after years of hard work to tell them that it’s their turn to walk the plank, they’re going to need a strong contract.”
In at least one case, an AP newspaper member bemoaned the layoffs. A column in the New Hampshire Union Leader about photographer Jim Cole had the heading “End of an Era.”
The column described Cole as “an iconic photojournalist” and listed several of his most famous photos, including one of former French President Nicola Sarkozy, when he was boating on Lake Winnipesaukee in the summer of 2007. The shirtless Sarkozy is pointing at Cole and yelling.

Family trove of Civil War letters inspires Guild member to write book

As a child, Raleigh-based National Writer Allen Breed heard stories about his great-grandfather, Dr. Bowman Breed, who headed south four days after Confederates opened fire on Fort Sumter to serve as a physician for the Union Army.

The family home in Lynn, Massachusetts, even contained a few artifacts from Bowman’s service, including a photo of him smoking a pipe in a tent surrounded by soldiers. His framed major’s commission, signed by President Lincoln himself, hung on a wall in the office of Allen’s father, Robert, who was also a doctor.

Allen Breed has been a Guild member since 1991.

Allen Breed joined the Guild in 1991.

What Allen didn’t know was that before Bowman left for the war, he and his wife, Hannah, promised to write to each other every day. A chance conversation with his eldest brother, Putnam, about the desire to write a story for the AP about their ancestor led to the revelation that those letters survived.

Putnam first shared a letter Bowman had written to Hannah regarding a visit with Lincoln at the White house in April 1862. “The President always looks shabby,” it began, “but last night he was outrageous.”

Then Allen asked to see the rest. Some time later, the brothers met in Boston, and Putnam handed over the cardboard box that stored the family’s history – nine bundles of letters, crammed in tight but arranged in no particular order, some damaged by time, vermin or human carelessness, but most in remarkably good shape.

“I guess the little boy in me was hoping to find tales of battlefield gore and severed limbs,” Allen said. “But what I found was, in many ways, much cooler.”

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Guild member Allen Breed tells a family-based Civil War story using his great-grandparents’ letters in his new book.

He learned about the hardship and heroics of Hannah, who sometimes stayed home in Lynn and at others joined

Bowman as he served at hospitals in the Carolinas, Tennessee and elsewhere. “Their first child was just a few months old when Bowman enlisted in the militia and marched off to war. Her letters, especially the early ones, are heartrending,” Allen said. “It’s amazing to watch her grow in strength as the war drags on.”

 

Allen was also amazed at how “modern” the couple’s sentiments were. “Their letters are very affectionate, playful, witty, wry and poignant,” he said. In fact, “I wrestled with whether I even had to right to share them. They were so raw and intimate, it almost felt like a betrayal at times. But they’d been saved for a reason, and had survived various fires and divorces.”

Although he originally planned to write a long feature for the AP, the project turned into something much bigger and more time consuming as he transcribed the letters. He enlisted help from his cousin’s wife, Robin White, who served as co-editor.

They couldn’t find a publisher – traditional publishers said the book wouldn’t be profitable, and academic presses turned down the story of one couple. So they decided to self publish, and the book, “My Own Dear Wife: A Yankee Couple’s Civil War,” is now available for sale on Amazon.

After the war, Bowman served for a time as the surgeon in charge of the U.S. Military Asylum in Togus, Maine, making him the first doctor hired by what is now the Department of Veterans Affairs. He and Hannah returned to Lynn in 1868 after a fire at the hospital, and Bowman, suffering from malaria contracted during the war, retired from medicine in 1872.

Forging a link to the great-grandson he would never meet, he then became the editor and co-owner of a newspaper, the Lynn (Weekly) Reporter. After his death in December 1873, Hannah became the proprietor. “He wasn’t the only journalist in the family!” Allen noted.

Guild study finds little diversity in highest paying AP jobs in unit

Only four of The Associated Press’ 50 highest-paid employees in the editorial unit are people of color, according to an analysis by the News Media Guild.

A News Media Guild study found there are no black senior journalists, and only three who are people of color.

A News Media Guild study found there are no black senior journalists, and only three who are people of color.

The Guild studied the pay of nearly 900 workers in the editorial unit with all employee names redacted. It included everyone eligible for Guild membership. The analysis did not include hourly workers and did not include overtime, economic differentials or any other additional pay beyond the weekly base rate.

The Guild’s study reflected a dearth of diversity at the highest-paying jobs within the bargaining unit. Forty-six of the 50 highest-paid bargaining unit jobs belong to white employees, and there are no black senior journalists, a high-profile position that pays at least twice as much as typical newsperson jobs.
“More than 90 percent of the top 50 earners in the bargaining unit are white. AP needs to make it a priority to hire more women and people of color for these high-paying, high-profile jobs,” said Jill Bleed, a Little Rock-based breaking news staffer and Guild vice president who conducted the analysis.

  • Among the Guild’s other findings:
    Of the top 10 highest salaries in the bargaining unit, all belonged to white employees. Three are women and seven are men.
  • White men were the highest-compensated subgroup based on average weekly salary. Black women were the lowest. On average, a white male earned about $15,000 more annually than a black woman, though that does not factor in differing job titles or years of service at the AP.
  • Women make up just over one-third of the nearly 700 newsperson jobs studied by the Guild. On average, a male newsperson earns about $2,700 more annually than a female newsperson, but that again does not factor in years of service at the AP.
  • Diversity among photographers is still a problem. Nearly 90 percent of photographers are male, and most are white.

“We know that the AP has few black employees, but it’s hard to imagine that none is deserving of being senior journalists, especially since the contract doesn’t limit the number of staffers who get that title,” said Guild President Martha Waggoner.

A Guild examination earlier this year of hiring by the AP shows that of the Class A employees working 15 or more hours a week, 83 percent are white; 6.7 percent Hispanic; 4.9 percent Asian; and 4.5 percent black.

In a meeting in June with the Guild’s diversity committee, the AP addressed the issue of minority hiring.  The Guild had not analyzed pay disparities, so the AP and the committee didn’t discuss that issue.

Brian Carovillano, AP’s vice president for U.S. News, said AP needs a path into the company for all diverse candidates and a path within the company to move around geographically. “Both have been tough,” he said, noting that AP hasn’t done a lot of hiring.

The Guild is working on an analysis of the technology unit.

Guild rep confronts challenge of combining journalism, activism

By Stephanie Siek

The Communication Workers of America Women’s, Civil and Human Rights Conference was a chance for the union membership to learn about issues such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, gender disparities in elected offices, the Black Lives Matter movement, prison reform, and voter suppression.

Many of the guest speakers and workshop sessions offered strategies for challenging policies and laws that harm the rights of workers, women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals.

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Stephanie Siek, a New York delegate in NMG’s Representative Assembly, and a member of the Human Rights committee.

But as a journalist who is heavily discouraged, if not actually prohibited, from taking actions like joining a protest march or running for office, I wondered how I could put the things I learned there to use?

This was a question that I would grapple with throughout the four days I attended.

We all have personal experiences that can give us an edge in reporting certain issues – some of us are expert-level jazz fans who can tell you exactly how a recently deceased saxophonist changed the genre; some of us are black men who know firsthand what it’s like to be harassed by police without cause and some of us are survivors of sexual assault who know why a rape survivor would wait years before going public about the attack.

And those of us who have seen how AP repeatedly tries to roll back protections that our union has fought for can see how a seemingly benign policy change or proposed legislation can weaken organized labor and its members.

The chance to be a voice for the voiceless is why a lot of us got into journalism. It’s good to periodically reexamine and renew that commitment. Part of our role as journalists is to bring the questions and interests of those directly impacted by a policy or an event into the discussion, particularly those who might be marginalized.

That includes workers whose opportunities could change or disappear if the TPP passes; former inmates who have paid their debt to society and stayed out of trouble but are barred from voting under laws that ban felons from the ballot box or mothers forced out of the workplace because a budget cut drastically reduced their childcare subsidy.

We must examine, question and sometimes directly challenge the narratives put forward by those in power.

Guild awards annual scholarships

Three News Media Guild members will be able to help family members pay for their education, thanks to recently awarded News Media Guild scholarships.

Piggy bank with graduation cap on a book isolated on a white background, education savings

The News Media Guild annually awards three scholarships.

Mark Miller, a tech on the Global Help Desk based in Los Angeles, will receive $2,000 toward his daughter Tristen’s studies at Santa Monica College, where she is in her second year studying foreign language, voice and theater, with her goal a career in either musical theater or music therapy.

Dennis Waszak Jr., the New York Jets beat reporter, will also receive $2,000. It will be used to help pay for his wife’s final year in the doctor of nursing practice at the University of Pittsburgh.

Daria, a registered nurse for 20 years, and nursing instructor with Felician University in New Jersey, is focusing her doctoral work on improving the care of veterans, and improving patients’ knowledge of opioid prescription safety. After graduating, she plans to continue teaching nurses and focus on efforts to help mitigate the U.S. opioid epidemic.

The “wild card” scholarship of $1,000 went to Padmananda Rama, who is on the video team in Washington, D.C. and recently took part in coverage of the Democratic National Convention, to help send her cousin Sophia Diaz-Muca to San Francisco State University, where she is majoring in history, following a summer internship at de Young Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco. Sophia’s long-term interest is in art history and museum curation.

The News Media Guild awards the three scholarships every year by lottery to members in good standing. The two $2,000 awards are available for Guild members and their spouses, children, grandchildren, parents or other members of their immediate households. The wild card scholarship is available to Guild members’ relatives, friends or co-workers who are not members of their household.

Scholarship candidates must be enrolled full-time or part-time in a degree or certification program at an accredited, post-secondary educational institution. Applications are mailed to members in late spring.

“My wife Daria and I are thrilled about the scholarship,” Waszak said. “It’ll be a great help to us.”