AP Staff Protests Proposal to Increase Health Insurance Premiums and Slash Retirement Benefits

By: Press Release

About 100 Associated Press journalists held a rally outside AP’s Manhattan headquarters this week to stand up for quality journalism at the world’s largest news agency.

Staffers at nearly 30 other AP bureaus across the nation also held protests Wednesday, and the Los Angeles bureau is doing a protest Tuesday at noon. Washington, D.C., staff and family members held a rally that drew about 120 people and two cute dogs in Guild red. The number of protests by AP’s journalists, technicians and other union-covered staff is unprecedented.

Meanwhile, virtually all AP journalists withheld their names from their stories and photos all week long, a big sacrifice for many reporting on major news, to send AP managers a message that they oppose the company’s contract proposals and support their union, the News Media Guild.

In New York, staffers with picket signs and a large banner protested in front of the company’s world headquarters in Manhattan. Wearing red Guild shirts, buttons and lanyards, they passed out hundreds of leaflets asking for public support from passing pedestrians.

The staff is protesting AP’s proposals to hike premiums 50 percent or more and slash retirement benefits about 50 percent, while giving only a tiny raise.

AP’s 1,250 journalists and technicians have been trying to negotiate a new contract with the AP since October, but the company continues to insist on deep cuts.

AP enjoyed several years of strong growth before the recession and its CEO, former USA Today executive Tom Curley, says AP’s finances are improving again. Unlike newspapers and TV stations hurt by loss of advertisers to the Internet, AP has a wide range of income sources, including Internet customers such as Google and Yahoo, corporations, government agencies, specialty publications and foreign news outlets. Income from many of those sources is growing steadily.

AP workers have already made many concessions to reduce costs, and haven’t had a wage increase in two years. Some 10 percent of the staff were laid off in 2009, after years of attrition had already reduced staff to extremely low levels in most bureaus.

Yet AP insists on huge increases in our health care premiums, a tiny raise that won’t keep pace with inflation and a freeze of our pensions. The combined effect would immediately cut income for most of the staff and erase retirement security. Given the deep staff cuts at many other media outlets, AP’s reliable, unbiased journalism is needed more than ever.

Staff have been protesting these proposals since October, signing petitions, withholding their names from their work, withholding use of their personal cars and cell phones for assignments and sending direct appeals to Curley. AP hasn’t budged, even though its negotiators say AP can afford to give us a fair deal – it just doesn’t want to do so.

On Wednesday, staffers at nearly 28 AP bureaus around the country, including in New York City, held protests. Those cities are: Montpelier, VT; Boston; Albany, NY; Hartford, CT area journalism schools; New York, NY; Trenton, NJ; Philadelphia; Baltimore, MD; Atlanta, GA; Orlando, FL; Miami, FL; Detroit; Indianapolis, IN; Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; New Orleans; Dallas, TX; Kansas City, MO; Columbia, MO; Chicago; Omaha, NE; Phoenix, AZ; Denver, CO; Cheyenne, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR, and Honolulu, HA. In addition, the Los Angeles bureau is holding a protest early next week.

The latest contract talks ended early Friday. Talks resume Tuesday.

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