[UPDATED] Associated Press journalists withhold bylines to protest contract proposals

The News Media Guild says most Associated Press journalists are withholding their bylines for 24 hours, starting at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.
Guild president Martha Waggoner tells me that 110 of 115 bureaus are participating in the byline strike. The journalists are primarily protesting the AP’s health care and job-transfer proposals, she says. The two sides return to the bargaining table on Monday. The last AP contract expired in August.

Some question the effectiveness of byline strikes, but Waggoner says “the main point is to show the company that the staff is unified in opposition to the proposals.”

AP spokesman Paul Colford says: “The withholding of bylines today has been permissible under AP’s contract with the News Media Guild, as negotiations toward a new agreement continue.”

* AP journalists hold byline strike in fight for “fair contract” (huffingtonpost.com)
* AP union members oppose company’s health care proposals (newsmediaguild.org)

The News Media Guild’s release is after the jump.

Press release

Associated Press staffers around the country participated in a byline boycott Thursday in a show of unity for News Media Guild negotiators, who return to bargaining next week.

Mobilizer Linda Johnson, who organized the boycott, estimated that 110 of 115 bureaus are participating, along with departments such as sports, photography and entertainment. Staffers in more than 20 bureaus in New York and Washington, D.C., also are participating.

Staffers who can’t participate, such as Guild-covered editors who don’t get bylines, are showing their support by wearing red T-shirts or buttons that say “We Keep AP Working.” Staffers also are participating by posting photos on Facebook and by tweeting about the boycott with the hashtag #fairAPcontract.

“The intent of the byline boycott is to tell AP managers that staffers support their bargainers at the table and oppose AP’s proposals that include health care that would shift $10 million in costs to Guild-covered staffers; the ability to transfer staffers anywhere at anytime; and changes to expenses that could cost some staffers thousands of dollars,” Guild President Martha Waggoner said.

The Guild negotiators have offered to switch $4 million in health-insurance costs to NMG staffers.

NMG and AP negotiators will bargain Monday and Tuesday.