These signs — or “desk tents” — can be seen all over the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newsroom these days. Milwaukee Newspaper Guild president and Packers reporter Tom Silverstein explains their purpose:
We started the desk tent mobilization after the company gave us a regressive contract offer that would allow them to dictate by themselves whether someone got a raise, would eliminate completely any guaranteed severance (we currently have two weeks for every year of service when an employee is laid off) and leave it at the discretion of the company and would eliminate a cap on employee contributions for health care of 35%.
We decided we need to fight back and the idea of these desk tents came up. The response was incredible. They’re all over the newsroom. I would say every union member (that’s 70% of the newsroom) has at least one up on their desk.
The reason the regressive offers are so bad is that since the newsroom has been shedded of so many positions, we’ve been busting our butts to try to cover everything that we did before. People are taking on way bigger workloads than they did. We recognize that the newspaper industry is in trouble, but we don’t think they should be going backward when we’re doing all we can plus more to make the paper great, including putting a lot of extra focus on our new pay wall.
The Guild is preparing to roll out its next desk tent campaign, which focuses on the fact that top executives at Journal Communications have guaranteed severance while they’re asking that union members give up theirs. The tent is expected to say: “Their severance: golden parachute. Their offer to us: lead balloon.”