Category Archives: EFE Negotiations


EFE staff marks 10 years as part of News Media Guild

It has been 10 years since EFE News Services’ employees voted to organize as a union, choosing News Media Guild as the unit’s representative. This 10th anniversary finds the EFE staff unit strong, with 85 percent of the represented employees as union members, and readying for negotiations toward a fourth collective bargaining agreement.

As in most cases, organizing was not easy. Back in 2005, almost half of the Spanish news agency workforce in the United States comprised journalists hired in Spain and protected by a collective agreement with Spanish unions.

Local hires didn’t have any contractual protection. They could be laid off without any reason and no severance payment at any time and there was no overtime compensation. The company was not offering any retirement plan since their Spanish-CBA employees were within the social security system of Spain.

The decision to organize happened after employees were unable to persuade EFE to set up a modest 401(k) plan. With more than half of the EFENS’ employees in Miami, workers made contact with NMG’s Tony Winton, who was then president, and the organizing effort got a boost.

After a group of employees formally asked for a vote on organizing the process led to a voting day in the Fall of 2005, requiring some logistics since there were voters in Miami, New York and Washington.

“I remember very well the process, so formal, so serious, with those booths and a curtain to secure secret voting,” said Maribel ElHamti, now office administrator in the Washington bureau. “I remember how the National Labor Relations Board official came here and set up the booths, and we had to designate officials to check each voter’s identity. I was surprised at how well organized it was, how formal and serious.”

Negotiations for a first collective bargaining agreement began late in 2005 and were completed in November 2006. But the unit paid a heavy price: without any warning and with contradicting promises in writing sent by EFE’s president, the company decided to close its Latin American Editorial Desk in Miami, laying off almost twenty local hires, and moving the operation to Bogotá, Colombia.

Acting quickly, the NMG negotiating team jumped to bargain a severance package for workers losing their jobs. In an exemplary show of union discipline, the negotiation team’s president Benito García and other Miami employees who knew they would be laid off continued supporting the negotiation and joined in voting for the first contract.

Teresa Bouza, now an EFENS reporter in San Francisco, highlighted from that first contract “the establishment of a 401(k), something so important for our retirement; the compensation for overtime, a normalization of weekend shifts, and the sabbatical year for professional development.

“An important component of the union work all these years has been Tony Winton and his passion for negotiation. He’s a star,” said Bouza who was part of the negotiating commiteee in 2009. “The art of bargaining includes surviving those long, very long, meetings with the employer’s representatives in which we gain little by little new benefits.”

Bouza said the bulletins and other messages e-mailed to all unit members explaining the bargaining process, alerting about changes, collecting information about grievances and responding to members’ questions were very helpful.

A heyday for NMG members at EFENS came in 2013, in the course of the longest negotiation so far when high-ranking EFE officers came to Washington, and Guild members donned red T-shirts with the text “WE are EFE” in all the company’s offices.

Pictures were quickly e-mailed and the company officers were aware of the disciplined support for the Union among the employees.

Since the vote to join a union, local staff turnover has been fewer than 10 of the workers who voted to organize a decade ago. New hires have joined the Guild keeping our tradition  of support and unity for collective representation.


20 months later, Guild and EFE reach tentative agreement

Bargaining Bulletin #14

WASHINGTON, Aug. 2 – After 20 months of tough bargaining, Guild negotiators announced a tentative agreement with EFE News Services that provides a two-year period of unpaid furloughs, followed by the first wage increase for the company’s U.S. staff since 2008. (Read in Spanish/Artículo en Español)

Guild leadership has approved the tentative pact, which now goes to members for a ratification vote. The contract calls for all workers to take 24 unpaid furlough days over a two-year period, starting in 2014. Workers also must pay 5 percent of the cost of the current medical insurance plan.

In 2015, however, wages will go up 2 percent across the board.

“The cuts will be painful, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jorge Bañales, a reporter in Washington, D.C., and EFE unit chair.

Guild members stand together during the bargaining,  March 12, 2013

Guild members united during the bargaining, 3/12/2013

EFE, based in Madrid, sought large payroll savings because of the ongoing economic crisis in Spain. The company, state supported but independent, is the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency.  Throughout the bargaining, the Guild, which represents U.S. workers, sought to balance the need for savings with a plan that was minimally disruptive for staffers and provided a real wage improvement after six years of wage freezes.In a major victory for employees, the agreement – for the first time – contains a non-discrimination provision that can be legally enforced through arbitration.

Guild members, who work in Washington, New York, California, and Miami, stood together during bargaining, donning red T-shirts and sharing images on social media.

“EFE staffers have a lot to be proud of in remaining united for such a long time and achieving real progress in the face of huge economic pressure,” said Martha Waggoner, NMG president. “We look forward to working with EFE to improve quality journalism in the Spanish language.”

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Government Charges EFE News Services with Labor Law Violation

NLRB logoBALTIMORE – The U.S. government formally charged EFE News Services with violating federal labor law this week because of its conduct in bargaining a new contract with the news agency’s workers.

EFE, based in Madrid, is the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency; EFE News Services is its U.S. subsidiary.

The National Labor Relations Board filed the formal complaint on June 17. The agency is prosecuting EFE for violations of the National Labor Relations Act for failing to provide information to the Guild that is necessary for collective bargaining. EFE “has been failing and refusing to bargain collectively and in good faith” with the Guild, the government’s complaint said.

The Guild filed the unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB earlier this year after the employer refused to provide information about its interns program and data related to the Guild’s belief that EFE has for years engaged in systematic, widespread discrimination by national origin.

The agency moved forward with the complaint after it conducted its own investigation into the employer’s bargaining conduct. The matter now heads to a federal administrative law judge for trial. A hearing has been set for Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C.

“EFE is bargaining in bad faith,” said Martha Waggoner, the Guild’s president. “All Guild members call on EFE to abandon its unfair treatment of workers and reach a fair agreement.” Continue reading

Guild: EFE is “Moving Goalposts” in Contract Talks

WASHINGTON, June 6, 2013 – Representatives for EFE News Services abruptly revised the company’s financial cost savings goals on Thursday, moving labor talks further apart for a new contract covering the Spanish news agency’s U.S. workers.

The move is the latest in a series of regressive actions taken by EFE since January, when the company retreated from earlier agreements on basic labor matters such as hours, overtime, and work schedules.

EFE workers, in their sixth year of a wage freeze, are facing deep wage and benefit cuts as EFE, the world’s largest Spanish-language news agency, is dealing with austerity measures imposed by the Spanish government.

The Guild has told EFE that it was willing to help the company weather the crisis, but that cuts must be fair and temporary.

The union on Wednesday proposed a year-long furlough program that — based on company data provided to the Guild  — would save the employer $180,000 over one year by establishing 104 unpaid furlough hours for each employee. The proposal was designed to give the employer great flexibility in arranging the furloughs to meet the demands of news coverage.

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EFE Proposal is “Take and Take”

MIAMI, May 1, 2013 – EFE News Services Inc. introduced a new set of economic proposals this week calling for large increases in employee out-of-pocket monthly health insurance payments and cutting its retirement contribution by 25 percent. The Guild also questioned the company’s proposal on non-discrimination language and a proposal for unlimited interns.

Wage and Benefit Cuts

The company is now insisting on steep increases in medical premiums – as much as 19% in 2013 and nearly 24% in 2014. The proposals given to the Guild are deeper than EFE’s prior proposal of a 15% reduction in medical premium costs.

That’s on top of proposals to cut staff salary by up to 9% of salary after five years of a wage freeze. Under EFE’s new proposal, the lowest paid employees would have wages frozen for two more years instead of a wage cut.

“Normally, contract negotiations are give and take,” said Tony Winton, the Guild’s chief negotiator. “With these proposals, EFE seems intent on pursuing a ‘take and take’ stance,” he said. Continue reading