WASHINGTON―Multibillionaire Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos is demanding major givebacks in contract talks with the
Washington-Baltimore News Guild.
According to the NewsGuild, which represents more than 1,200 workers, management wants to replace across-the-board pay increases for all workers with a “merit pay” system that would favor star columnists over behind-the-scenes workers like copy editors. “Under the Bezos ownership, we fear a fundamental transformation is under way at the Post—one that is occurring in many other workplaces around the country, leading to economic insecurity for working people as though we are disposable or interchangeable elements in a machine,” the union bargaining committee said in a memo to workers on Oct. 6. Management has also proposed cutting severance pay and refused to increase its 1% match for workers’ contributions to their 401(k) plans, and says it will come back with a harsher proposal if the union doesn’t accept its current one by Nov. 1. The Post’s profits and revenue are both up this year. Forbes magazine ranks Bezos, the Amazon owner who bought the paper in 2013, as the third-wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of more than $70 billion. Read more
SONOMA, Calif.—Hundreds of the men and women risking their lives to battle the massive, fast-moving wildfires devastating
Northern California are being paid only $10.50 an hour for it—the state’s minimum wage. Under International Association of Firefighters Local 2881’s contract with “Cal Fire,” the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, entry-level first responders get the minimum. They get time-and-a-half overtime pay for 19 of the 72 hours a week they work during fire season, says Cal Fire Local 2881 President Mike Lopez. The union represents about 5,900 firefighters in the department. The pay disparity came about because the state minimum has risen faster than pay for higher-ranking jobs in Cal Fire, so some entry-level firefighters, who make up around 20% of the department’s 8,000 employees, were getting paid more than workers in higher positions. The union’s most recent contract raised pay for those jobs, but kept entry-level workers at the minimum, which will go up to $15 in 2022. Firefighters from local and federal agencies make more and work fewer hours each week, which causes some resentment. “We’re doing the exact same job,” said Lopez. “It becomes emotional.”