Guild activists meet in LA to prep for bargaining, mobilizing

Guild officers and activists from the western U.S. strategize in LA.

Guild officers, activists from the western U.S. strategize in LA.

AP staffers from the western U.S. discussed concerns about increased workload and its impact on the quality of AP’s reporting during a union conference last weekend.Two dozen News Media Guild activists from Texas to Hawaii gathered in Los Angeles June 7-9 for the first of two strategy sessions. The group talked about working conditions, salary, benefits and other likely issues for upcoming contract bargaining.

Activists including reporters, editors, photographers, sportswriters and technicians, armed with input from colleagues in their bureaus, helped union leaders set priorities and formulate plans for nationwide mobilizations.

The group, a mix of new activists and experienced mobilizers, brainstormed on ways to engage and empower staff and mobilize around specific issues expected to dominate bargaining. Those include health care costs, salary and workload. 

“The meeting was a true eye opener. It was an intense two days of listening to the concerns of fellow AP staffers and how to deal with them,” said Chicago BNS Herb McCann. “I left prepared to do what is needed to advance the goals of the News Media Guild.”

Every participant said workloads have been increasing significantly over the last few years as vacant positions routinely go unfilled and the size of the staff continues to decline. They noted that new duties piled on the rank and file, along with arbitrary production targets, have led to more errors in copy.

Guild-covered staff also are concerned about the possibility of higher out-of-pocket health care costs, given that they have remained level for the past 4 ½ years. Staffers also are demanding fair and adequate increases in their compensation.

“I was definitely energized by the chance this weekend to brainstorm with colleagues, meet new people and be reminded about how many folks out there in the company are in the same boat,” said Minneapolis sportswriter Dave Campbell.

“I really enjoyed getting to meet people, share our concerns and learn about operations in other bureaus. I’m feeling confident as we go into negotiations,’’ Sioux Falls newswoman Kristi Eaton said.

AP’s contract, covering about 1,170 U.S. editorial and technical staffers, expires on Aug. 31. While no dates have been set yet, bargaining is expected to begin in late July.

NMG President Martha Waggoner, First Vice President Linda Johnson and Administrator Kevin Keane hosted the meeting. A second meeting for staffers in the eastern U.S. is set for this weekend, June 14-16, in Washington, D.C.