Eastern U.S. NMG activists plan for bargaining, mobilizing

NMG activists strategizing in DC. Clockwise from left: Samantha Henry, Freida Frisaro, Kevin McGill, David Melendy, Emery Dalesio, Terry Wallace.

NMG activists strategizing in DC. Clockwise from left: Samantha Henry, Freida Frisaro, Kevin McGill, David Melendy, Emery Dalesio, Terry Wallace.

Work speedups, copy backing up at understaffed editing hubs and too many managers, often pressing staffers for multiple things simultaneously, dominated discussion when AP staffers from the eastern U.S. met to strategize over the weekend.

Twenty News Media Guild activists from Illinois to Florida gathered in Washington, D.C., June 14-16 for the second of two “sectional” meetings to prepare Guild-covered staff for upcoming contract bargaining.

The contract, covering about 1,170 U.S. editorial and technical staffers, runs through Aug. 31. Negotiations are expected to begin in late July.

The group discussed concerns about increased workload and its impact on the quality of AP’s reporting. They noted new duties heaped on staff, along with sky-high and sometimes nonsensical production quotas, have led to more errors in copy.

Other hot topics, reflecting input from the activists’ member colleagues, included health care costs, salary, unreasonable goals set by managers, difficulty getting vacations when preferred due to too-thin staffing, bureau plans for dealing with emergencies and power losses that amount to sending news staff to Starbucks to file and numerous other issues likely to arise in bargaining.

 Activists representing reporters, editors, photographers, print/video ”hybrids,” BNC and breaking news staffers, editorial assistants and technicians participation. Their comments, in turn, will hlep union leaders determine bargaining priorities and develop plans for nationwide mobilizations this summer.

“Going to meetings and getting involved is what provides the comradeship and shared commitment both to our journalism and the respect we deserve. There are struggles ahead, but, just back from a sectional, I’m newly strengthened to meet them,” said Montpelier, Vt., newsman David Gram.

The activists developed and fine-tuned potential tactics to unite and mobilize staffers around key bargaining issues.

“This past weekend in DC was my third NMG sectional, but I can honestly say I felt it was the most productive yet,” said Columbia, S.C.., newswoman Meg Kinnard.

“I wish that every single member of our unit had the opportunity to be at some of these meetings in person, because I always come away from them energized and assured that my union dues aren’t only worth it, they’re necessary,” she said.

Along with other concerns, staffers want to ensure minimal increases in out-of-pocket health care costs, which have remained level for the past 4 ½ years, and commensurate pay raises.

NMG President Martha Waggoner, First Vice President Linda Johnson and Administrator Kevin Keane hosted the meeting.