Monday, January 12, 2009

Fighting for the future

Twenty-eight hours is a long time to spend sitting on your butt in a cool hotel meeting room with bad acoustics.

But it was worth it. Leaders from The Newspaper Guild and the broadcasting and printing sectors of the Communications Workers of America met in wintry Baltimore for three long days of meetings to come up with ways to protect jobs and help save the news industry.

"It's really tough right now, and there's a lot of despair," said Guild President Bernie Lunzer. But we think if we work together, we can kill the despair with hope."

No, we didn't come up with a magical solution -- I wish we did-- but we did take several forward-looking steps. They include:

-- Establishing a task force to develop skills training programs for members.
-- Exploring non-traditional ownership arrangements -- including non-profit arrangements, employee stock option plans, public financial support, startups and hybrid models that combine traditional ownership and alternative approaches.
-- Launching community campaigns promoting the importance of journalism and newspapers.
-- Bargaining contract language that protects jobs.
-- Establishing cooperative relationships with management to find mutually beneficial solutions to make newspapers work.

Our new, merged California Media Workers Guild was well-represented with Media News mobilizers Carl Hall and Sara Steffens joining me, along with soon-departing Luther Jackson, former administrative officer of the San Jose Newspaper Guild, and Gloria LaRiva, head of our typographical sector. We were among 150 leaders from media unions in the U.S., Puerto Rico and Canada.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I left feeling tired and a bit hopeful. There's a lot of work ahead if we're going to try to save newspapers from themselves (And we'll need your help). But it feels good to be doing something other than whining, moping and cursing our owners -- and something more innovative than laying people off.

Now, it's time for me to get some sleep.

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