The Bay Area News Group-East Bay was born in June 2008 when we won a hard-fought organizing campaign. Sara Steffens, now secretary-treasurer of the CWA, helped lead a year-long effort, which began when the employer merged the Guild-covered Oakland Tribune and affiliates with the nonunion Contra Costa Times. Because the Times was larger, and the employer chose not to merge the East Bay with the Guild-represented Mercury News, the staff of the new entity was majority nonunion, which allowed the employer to withdraw recognition.

That forced the Guild to organize a new unit covering the entire BANG-East Bay editorial staff. The unit initially included about 220 newsroom employees, which made the East Bay one of the Guild’s largest new editorial units to organize in recent times.

It took us another year following the organizing victory to negotiate a first contract. That settlement was ratified in summer 2009, despite layoffs that claimed the jobs of some of our key organizers, Steffens included. Two successor agreements have been reached since then, but for the most part our initial contract terms have been extended without much change.

The initial labor agreement contained a pay minimum which led to substantial raises for about 30 members. Since then, however, management has taken a hard line in salary negotiations, and we have been unable to add experience steps to the pay system. There have been no across the board raises. Our membership has declined from round after round of job reductions, and numbers about 120 now. Many talented staff have left journalism because of economic pressure. In recent years, members have grown increasingly frustrated by the disparities in pay and benefits between the East Bay and the San Jose Mercury News.

The latest bargaining has taken a new turn into a proposed realignment of the two bargaining units. Although the outcome of the talks remain in doubt, East Bay members are committed to winning fair terms through strong coordination and solidarity with DFM members throughout the country.

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