Guild shares staffers’ petitions protesting staffing shortages, other issues

Staffers in bureaus and departments across the country have signed petitions protesting staffing shortages, the AP’s health insurance and forced transfer proposals and other issues, and the News Media Guild is sharing those with company managers at the bargaining table.

The Guild has presented the AP with four petitions so far and has several others to share as bargaining continues. Some echo similar frustrations, while others express concerns that individual staffers have about the AP proposals. More than 200 AP staffers have signed the petitions presented so far.

On Wednesday, the Guild presented the AP bargainers with a petition from 40 staffers in the Los Angeles, Orange County, Calif., and San Diego bureaus.

Forcing AP employees to transfer to other cities would create a hardship not only for us but for our spouses and children,” the petition reads, referring to AP’s proposed forced transfer policy. “Those of us who would choose not to uproot our lives would struggle even more if we agreed to the reduced severance proposal you have presented.”

Under the AP proposal, the company would be able to transfer staffers anywhere in the country at will to fill a staffing vacancy.

The California petition also says that the pay raises the company has proposed of 1.5 percent, 1.75 percent and 2 percent “actually represent a decrease in salary because they will not keep up with inflation. After years of insignificant raises, or no raises at all, we are looking for real gains this year — gains that the company’s own statements indicate it can afford.”

To read the petition in full, click here.

The Guild also gave the company a petition signed by 122 members of the staff in Washington, D.C.

Referring to several company proposals, including health care and forced transfers, the petition reads: “All of these proposals would take an unacceptable toll on our incomes and quality of life.  We are doing our part in providing quality work to the AP, often working long hours and, for many, staying available whenever needed. We need the AP to protect our quality of life and acknowledge our work and dedication to the task.”

To read the Washington petition in full, click here.

On Tuesday, the union presented to AP negotiators a petition that was signed by 21 employees of the South desk and Atlanta staffs that they presented earlier to local managers.

“We are also concerned by the company’s apparent refusal to maintain an adequate workforce,” the petition reads. “It is absolutely impossible for us to maintain an appropriate level of production when we have (in the Atlanta bureau, at least) a third of the staff we had five years ago. Forcing people to pile more and more tasks on their plates and to work increasingly long and erratic shifts can only lead to staff burnout and an unacceptable decrease in the value of our product.”

Individual staffers wrote their own comments, including Bill Barrow, who wrote: “To call AP’s proposal anything other than a pay cut is intellectual dishonesty the likes of which we wouldn’t publish on the wire without a rebuttal and clarification were it coming from an elected official. Further, the spousal coverage proposal suggests management values short-term, marginal savings over maintaining a family friendly company that rewards employees with stability. Stable employees become long-term contributors to the AP’s product and, thus, to a financially healthy company.”

Carol Druga, an editor on the South desk, wrote: “When the Beat of the Week is awarded, it is never to a bean counter looking for ways to squeeze the staff’s wallets more. It is always to people who go above and beyond to get that important story. AP staff keeps AP working by going above and beyond every day to get it right and to be FAIR! We are asking that AP do the same and offer those doers something FAIR for them and their families.”

To read the petition, click here.

Earlier in bargaining, the Guild shared a petition signed by 24 members of the West desk and Phoenix bureau. Its opening statement sums up the feelings of many Guild-covered staffers across the AP.

“We work hard for the AP and care deeply about the quality of our journalism,” the petition reads. “Like you, we also care about the quality of our lives. We have made many significant concessions in past contracts, particularly in the last round of negotiations, because we believe in this company and want to see it succeed. But the AP’s latest proposals seek concessions we simply cannot give.”

To read this petition, click here.

Bargaining resumes Nov. 20 and 21.