Jan 31, 2013
After more than a decade of bargaining for a new contract, Washington Mailers Local 14201 ratified an agreement this week with The Washington Post.
"I can't say enough about the membership holding strong all these years and all of their perseverance," said PPMWS President Dan Wasser. "The bargaining committee and Sector Counsel Richard Rosenblatt were instrumental in reaching this new deal and getting it ratified. It has been a tough road for this local.”
|Mailers from CWA's Printing, Publishing and Media Workers sector and members of CWA Local 14201, protest outside The Washington Post in Nov. 2004. It was the start of long, hard-fought negotiations that ended last week with a ratified new contract.|
The three-year agreement, ratified by a more than 5-1 margin, lays a solid foundation for the Local going forward. While most contract negotiations at other newspapers involve concessions and zero raises, the Local was able to negotiate bonuses and immediate wage increases at the Post. It includes a voluntary buyout package of three years pay, $4,000 a year for health care and up to 10 years added to their age for pension purposes.
For more than 30 years, helpers and mailers operated in two separate jurisdictions. But the new agreement allows joint jurisdiction, meaning employees can do any work within the department, so that the Post can utilize every worker in a more efficient manner.
Also, priority, vacation and sick time remain unchanged, despite the Post’s insistence on radical cuts. Workers will keep their old break schedule, but will lose their coffee break after the first year.
“I had to fight for that third break,” said Bill Shiflett, president of the Local. “It’s the only department at the newspaper where you’re tethered to a machine and need to work the speed of that machine. Because the work is so demanding, you just cannot work on this machine without having a break.”
Workers had gone 10 years without a raise.
The last agreement expired in May 2003, and the Printing Sector, in conjunction with the Local, started a corporate campaign against the Post to aid in reaching an agreement.
A comprehensive tentative agreement was reached in December 2009, but it was rejected by the membership. The Post declared impasse, yet did not implement many portions of the rejected agreement because of lifetime job guarantees. Negotiations continued, but stalled in April 2010 until recently.
“The vast majority of people are very content, even people in their 40s and 50s who know they’ll be staying,” said Shiflett.