Guild proposes diversity committee

The News Media Guild on Thursday proposed that the Associated Press extend its contractual non-discrimination protections to prospective employees and that a joint committee on workplace equity and diversity be formed.

The Guild proposed a committee of no more than three members from the union and three from the employer to discuss all proposals and initiatives involving equity and diversity. The committee could review complaints of discrimination and harassment and settlements of such complaints.

NMG said it would seek similar changes for the technicians.

The AP rejected the proposal, saying the Guild contract only applies to current employees, not prospective ones, meaning the company wouldn’t bargain about the intern program. It also said the committee’s review of grievance settlements and lawsuits could cause legal problems for both sides.

The company said it would offer a counter-proposal on a joint committee.

Suzanne Gamboa, chair of the Guild’s human rights committee and a staffer in Washington, D.C., and Russell Contreras, an AP staffer in Boston urged AP to retain a presence at minority journalism conferences and to support a scaled-back internship program.

But AP said it already had decided to place the intern program on hiatus for 2011 and to not attend the conferences. Diane Parker, AP’s director of staffing and diversity, said she was “personally committed to seeing the intern program flourish” and that she would propose the reinstatement of the program.

She said she had proposed that the AP continue a scaled-down version of the intern program that included fewer interns and no annual summit for the interns, along with Webex training for the intern mentors rather than in-person training. Those changes would have resulted in significant savings, she said.

Gamboa told the AP that the company will develop a reputation for not having a presence at minority conferences. “That’s a hard reputation to undo,” she said.

Contreras told the company that the company’s percentages of minorities in both Guild-covered and management positions is unacceptable. “The White House is more diverse than our D.C. bureau,” he said. “And we need to change that.”

In addition to Gamboa and Contreras, those at the table for the Guild were: Tony Winton, Martha Waggoner, John Braunreiter and Kevin Keane.

In addition to Parker, those representing the AP were: Michelle Ehrlich, Sue Gilkey, Carole Feldman, Hilda Auguste, Alison Quan and Steve Macri.

Bargaining resumes Monday.