To my BANG colleagues: I’m going to get involved with the union and I need your help.

My apologies to anyone reading this who doesn’t work with me.  It’s a mix of boring office politics and how-sausage-is-made internal strife.  I won’t blame you if you skip it, it’s not exactly for you.

On the other hand, if you do work with me, I would appreciate if you read this and give it serious consideration.  It’s a subject I’ve gone out of my way to stay away from largely to avoid alienating my friends and respected colleagues, so if you sense yourself starting to judge me read it to the end before cementing your opinions.

Now that the disclaimers are out of the way, onto the point:

I’m getting involved in the BANG East Bay union for the upcoming contract negotiations and I want you to join me.  Yes, you, whoever you are and whatever your history is with the union.  I need your help.

Until now I’ve actively avoided having anything to do with the union for or against.  After watching the organizing campaign rip the Walnut Creek newsroom apart between two bitterly divided and sometimes overtly hostile factions the absolute last thing I wanted was to get in the middle of the fight.  There were people who I respect and whose work I admire on both sides of the fray and I didn’t want to lose half of them.  The whole atmosphere was bad enough as a neutral observer, the last thing I wanted was to be involved.

Even after the union came to be I didn’t want to take sides because I have no problem with management then or now.  The people I report to, both directly and higher up the hierarchy, are some of the best bosses I’ve ever had.  The editors at the CCT have given me all the training and opportunities that led me to where I am today, they’re the reason I have a career in journalism at all.  Without those editors I would be an accountant, a fate far worse than death, so I didn’t want to give the impression that I was opposing them.  I have no reason to oppose them.

Then the contract was negotiated.  It’s, quite frankly, the worst contract I’ve ever seen.  I haven’t gotten a raise since then while my rent went up 16%, health insurance rates have gone up so much I can’t afford to get my knee cleaned out, I went nearly a year without two vacation days in a row.  And I still spent months worrying about whether or not I would have a job in 2012.

I was not and am not pleased is my point.  It was not a favorable contract.

But soon, finally, mercifully, it’s expiring.  And to be honest I have faith that Digital First is going to try to make amends for the sins of their predecessors, so far they’ve done a lot of fence-mending.

However, this time I am not sitting it out and hoping for the best.  Not after last time.  Whether or not I’m involved I’m going to be subject to the terms of the contract, so I’m done letting old hostilities and bad memories force me to put my fate in someone else’s hands.  It may turn out just fine with or without me but this time I want to make sure.

If you’ve been in the same boat as me, if you’ve wanted to maintain neutrality, please, join me in making sure we get a fair deal this time.  If you were anti-union during the organizing efforts or if you’re anti-union on an ideological basis, please put that aside for now to get back your raises, to get back your Anthem plan, to get back whatever it is that you lost.

I work with some of the most brilliant, knowledgable, resourceful people I’ve ever met, and I literally can’t afford another contract like the last one, so I want those people standing beside me to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.  Get in touch with the union, get in touch with me, just get involved if only until the next contract is signed.  For your coworkers, and especially for yourself, let’s make sure this gets done right.

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