We continue to see many changes in our industry and the effects of the digital age on all the work we do — from newspapers to print shops, to the manufacturers of dated material and headwear. Just looking at the Amazon effect alone, we not only see the brick and mortar stores closing, but we also see the pressures on the costs of manufacturing and how dollars are spent for advertising. Every one of our members has witnessed how their industry has changed and continues to change, either directly or indirectly.
Recognizing how changes are affecting our work helps us remain fluid in how we respond to them and then in turn, bargain better contracts for our members. We cannot remain stagnant in our thinking or in our ability to adapt. Because if we do, then we will surely be at a disadvantage in our fight for better conditions and better contracts.
Sisters and Brother, the battlefronts before us may not only be with the employers of our membership, but unfortunately, it may also include us fighting for the same dignity and respect in our own union. As of the printing of this Sector News, you should have received President Shelton’s letters of April 20th and May 30th, each of which, I will briefly respond to and clarify the record.
First, let me thank each of you for all the calls and emails that I received since President Shelton started his attacks on our Sector. Your voices, opinions, love and dedication to this Sector, as always, is well received and always a breath of fresh air. Many of you have also reached out to the Chairman of the Laws Committee, Don McConnell, to share your thoughts and love, and he also thanks you. Now, let’s look at the record as a whole, in brief unpretentious terms, on the crusade that Shelton has waged against this Sector.
It starts with the well-deserved retirement of one of our beloved PPMWS Staff Representatives, who formally retired June 30, 2017, and the need to fill the vacancy was created. Pursuant to our Executive Board call in June 2017, I emailed Secretary/Treasurer Sara Steffens on July 12, 2017, to give her a heads up that I would be submitting a staffing request to fill the vacancy, but due to the timing of the Sector Conference and CWA Convention, the formal request wouldn’t be made until after the Convention. She kindly responded the same day and suggested I reach out to Shelton because it greatly expedites the processing of the staff request when it arrives on her desk.
I reached out to Shelton shortly after the Convention to express the desire to get together, inform him of the vacancy and the need to fill it. We ultimately agreed that he and I would get together in December at our Executive Board meeting.
On December 5, 2017, Shelton abruptly stated that he wanted to dissolve the Sector, will not fill the vacant position, and threatened to call a Special Convention to dissolve the Sector if need be. This meeting lasted maybe five minutes; his crusade had started; and a successor meeting was set up and held at the Sector office January 30th.
Though Shelton didn’t attend our January 30th meeting, we believe that we had a productive meeting anyway, yet two days after this meeting, Shelton emails out a demanding proposal that the Sector dissolve under his terms and we have an agreement by February 28th, or a call for a special convention may be made.
March 1st, Shelton sends out an email surprising the CWA Executive Board with his desire to dissolve the Sector and states in part, “I will be asking the Executive Board to request a Special Convention to consider this sole matter. Such a Special Convention would be called so that it is held in conjunction with the Presidents’ Meeting on June 11, 2018.” He gave the Executive Board less than a 24-hour notice on his plan to push his agenda onto the Sector. Where Shelton speaks for the CWA Executive Board in his letter and states that they “strongly encourage…discussions,” well, I won’t try to speak on behalf of each Executive Board member; they can speak for themselves on the issue and if they support Shelton’s crusade.
Then, two additional calls were held in March where Shelton continued to pursue his ‘my way or the highway agenda.’ On one of the calls we even changed up the participation of the Laws Committee to bring a fresh outlook on the overall agenda. Unfortunately, this did not aid in a resolution and Shelton continued his push and rejected the Committee’s proposal.
March 21, the Committee – Don McConnell and Michelle Tovo and myself, met in D.C. with Shelton and his committee. This was Shelton’s first time to state that his proposal was his last, best, and final offer, and rejected our proposal outright. He again issued the same last, best and final offer a second time on April 10, with a new deadline of April 20. On April 20, the full Laws and Finance Committee and myself rejected his offer, withdrew our last offer, and preceded with the request for arbitration in accordance with the overall amendments signed back in 2011 and 2015. It was now perfectly clear that Shelton was holding firm on dictating the terms, and not negotiating; even though a signed agreement that didn’t expire until 2023 stated otherwise.
Subsequent correspondences from the CWA’s legal department on May 2, and Shelton’s letter of May 30, in response to our arbitration demand, stated in part, “CWA has not taken any action that could be deemed a ‘violation of the Agreement’ nor is it aware of any dispute over the terms of the Agreement.” Or Shelton plainly stating in his letter, “My door is open, but I see no violations of the merger agreement, or dispute over its terms…” Both letters being completely contrary to everything he stated previously. We’ll just let those words sink in for a moment so you can digest the comments made in those two letters.
Shelton repeatedly makes the claim that all of you are not being serviced effectively, and Michelle has consistently pressed Shelton on this claim each and every time. Asking him, what locals; or, is someone complaining on their service; or point to a specific issue. However, he brushes all her questions off, has no specifics to her questions, and she is still waiting for her questions to be answered. He refuses to fill a vacancy yet wants to say that the Sector is now inefficient and locals aren’t serviced.
When pressed about the costs and finances, Shelton responds that it’s not about the money, yet you see in his correspondences that finances are always discussed. When asked how much his proposal saves CWA, he doesn’t answer it and talks only in generalities. It almost appears to be a shell game with him. You try to talk about one of his concerns, and that isn’t the issue anymore, it’s something else. Which draws into question his true motives.
When evaluating his numbers, they are grossly misstated in the Committee’s opinion. The history of the Sector’s finances speaks for itself, and the Laws and Finance Committee has always been prudent in their fiduciary responsibilities. This will continue under our proposal, and any attempt to demean their prudent and faithful responsibilities is not only an insult to them but is completely disingenuous.
Looking at Shelton’s assumptions, he assumes many negative factors and leaves any positive factors off the table in an attempt to further promote his crusade. Make no mistake, Shelton wants to buy your vote. That is the reason the Sector’s finances are always at the forefront of his communications.
The Committee and Shelton have both proposed dissolving the Sector, yes. The differences are clear however. Our approach is a bottom-up approach – let the Sector members be the authors of how it will happen. Shelton’s approach is a top-down approach – I’ll tell you how it’s going to happen, just let me buy your vote and look the other way. We want to have the specifics to each local and the terms of the dissolution spelled out in writing prior to the dissolution, so all your interests are protected.
In our discussions with Shelton, we made it perfectly clear that our proposal is 2023, which by the way is when the latest signed amendment expires; but, we also said that we believed that we could accomplish the transition much earlier. We would need to talk with all the locals and get everyone’s specific concerns and then move forward as the Sector members deemed satisfied that their concerns were addressed.
Shelton’s proposed #6 doesn’t give the membership the right to have the specifics spelled out prior to any agreement. When the Committee pressed him on what would happen if his proposed transitional committee couldn’t agree on an issue or issues, his response was he didn’t know but maybe the Convention would have to decide. Prior to ever ratifying a contract, when have you ever let the terms be decided at a later time? The Merger Agreement is clear; you know what your rights are. Any dissolution should be just as clear.
In closing on this subject, we encourage you to keep the calls and emails coming. We encourage you to talk with all locals of CWA about Shelton’s unilateral crusade, and you have our unfettered commitment to do everything in our power to protect your rights and find a solution. As Shelton said, we are one union and we will strive to resolve these matters together, as a union. We encourage Mr. Shelton to take a step back and hit the pause button. Re-evaluate the approach he has taken, and practice what he preaches when it comes to our discussions – negotiate, as a union.
Finally, included with this report is the financial health and audit of the Sector’s funds and collective bargaining briefs around the Sector. I am honored and humbled to supply all of you with my annual report of the Sector, for your consideration.
The Sector’s finances continue to be in a good stable position. As of May 31, 2017, we had total assets of $5,268,127; which is a net change and increase of $160,695 from May 31, 2016. This shows that our investment strategy is still working for us when we had total expenses of $145,314, yet still increased our overall assets. Likewise, when our expenses are compared year-over-year, there was a decrease in expenses by $45,551.
Please look at the accompanying audit report that was performed by Gorfine, Schiller & Gardyn, P.A. Along with the Laws and Finance Committee, we continue to monitor our investments, control costs, and make any changes if warranted. If you have any questions in regards to the audit report, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Collective Bargaining Briefs Around the Sector
Local 4250 / Chicago Typographical No. 16 has signed several new agreements as many of their contracts became due. Some of the locations include: Baxter Printing and Consolidated Printing.
Central Illinois Typographical Union 177/CWA 14406 reached a new three-year agreement with Branstiter Printing.
Washington Mailers M-22/Local 14201 ratified a new two-year agreement with the Washington Post and a new three-year agreement with the Dow Jones & Company.
Las Vegas Typographical No. 933 ratified contracts at A & B Printing, Royal Printing, Creative Digital Printing, AA Printing Service, and Valley Press of Las Vegas. Each contract was for three years and represents new growth at the local. Although Nevada is a right-to-work state, it has strong union density, especially in the city of Las Vegas and surrounding areas. The Local is very active in organizing and maintaining an active base with the Union Label.
As of the printing of the Sector News, Salt Lake City Mailers, Local 14759 continues negotiations with the Utah Media Group; Duluth Mailers, Local 14733 continues negotiations with the Duluth News Tribune and the Superior Telegram; Detroit Typographical No. 14 is in bargaining with the Toledo Blade; Buffalo Typographical No. 9 is still in negotiations with the Buffalo News; and many other Locals are under way with bargaining.
As you have undoubtedly read in previous Sector News, the Pittsburgh Mailers Local M-22 and Pittsburgh Typographical Local #7 are still in negotiations with the Pittsburgh Post doing their best to secure four new agreements.
Additionally, many other contracts are slated to begin in the coming months. Buffalo Mailers M-81 will be negotiating their next contract with the Buffalo News towards the end of 2018; and the Buffalo News has already made it apparent that they will be difficult negotiations.
Sidney Typographical No. 81 will be gearing up for their first negotiations in five years with ACCO Brands towards the end of 2018. These negotiations also are appearing to show signs that they too will be challenging.
The leaders of our locals along with the Sector staff continue to be at the forefront of representing the membership and addressing the challenges that we are faced with in securing successor agreements.
Contract negotiations and contract enforcement has always been essential in representing the membership. Each year we process numerous grievances. The Sector pays all costs of arbitration and legal assistance on cases that are approved by the Sector in advance.
Employers cannot drain the finances of the local unions’ treasury so they can no longer enforce their contractual rights; instead, each local has the strength of the International behind them not only in contract enforcement, but in contract negotiations. This puts significant pressure on the employers and aids our members in all aspects of representation.
Summary in Brief
I want to thank each and every one of you, for all of the hard work you do, day in and day out in representing the members of this Sector and the labor movement as a whole. Your dedication makes a significant difference in each of the members’ lives and their families lives and you should all be very proud. I also want to thank the Sector staff for their hard work and dedication. It is collectively that we have made a difference for our members, and I am not only humbled, but honored to be part of this great PPMWS family.