Dear Local 406 members:
Local 406 is at a crossroads. As we enter a new phase of growth, the local leadership would like to provide an update to explain how we got to this point -- and what we believe will be the best way forward. You may have heard by now that we would like to merge with Local 119, a local of the Graphic Communications Conference that is also based in Suffolk County. There are pros and cons to the move, some of below. But we think the good outweighs any negative repercussions from the new alliance.
This bold step is one we have decided to take based on a number of factors but, most importantly, because the leadership of our International in Washington decided to consolidate locals with fewer than 250 members to create bigger, stronger units. As a consequence, the maneuver reduces the number of locals. The GCC leadership, President Kurt Freeman and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Nobles, announced the policy at the North American Newspaper Conference in Arizona, in June. Should we merge with Local 119, we would almost double our ranks, increasing the size of our local from about 160 to 290, as Local 119 has about 130 members. They work in the bindery printing industry and produce items such as The Playbill, an iconic Broadway staple.
We chose to merge with Farmingdale-based Local 119 because of its proximity to our home, past amicable relations with the union and its president/secretary-treasurer, Mary DeGratto, and because we deem this local the best of the three options available in the New York area. The other two are in Manhattan: Local 2-N, headed by John Heffernan, and Local 1-L, whose president is Pat LoPresti.
We took proactive measures in seeking a merger with 119 in order to preempt the expected unilateral action by the International to fuse us with a local that we feel would not be the best fit for Local 406. The factors that went into that choice include the cost of membership in those locals (in some our dues would increase dramatically), loss of a voice and autonomy on the executive board, and whether the local’s culture and management style matched ours.
Some of the key points of this proposal are listed below:
Our dues would increase. The executive board proposes a hike in dues to become financially solvent. We have been operating at a deficit since the staff reductions through buyouts starting in 2018, having lost some 400 members since that year. You may recall the departures of the pressroom, platemaking, and transportation units as well as the buyouts in editorial. We once had six bargaining units and are now down to three. The proposal for a dues increase is co-incident with the merger, though it is a necessary condition for any of the locals we would consider since we have been operating at a loss for some time. The proposal would raise dues from one wage hour (plus the per capita tax to the International) to 1 1/2 hours, phased in over several months – once at the completion of the merger and then again in April, when members receive a contractual 2 percent wage increase. The move would raise about $3,000 each month and fully cover our expenses without dipping into savings. Other GCC locals -- including the ones under consideration for merger -- pay dues of either 2% or 3% of their yearly base salary despite earning lower salaries than the majority of Local 406. Our median dues payment is $71.50 monthly.
Local 119’s average monthly dues amount is $130 based on 3% of its members’ base salary. The local runs in the black each month. Its treasury and finances are healthy. They held about $502,000 in net assets at the end of 2021, according to records filed with the federal Department of Labor. The dues for our top-scale reporters and TRE-designated journalists, for example, would increase to about $100 monthly, still lower than any GCC local in the New York area.
Mary DeGratto has decided to yield the presidency of the merged local to Local 406. She will remain as secretary-treasurer, allowing for a leadership structure that places the principals of 406 and 119-B local in one of the top two positions of the new local. That configuration will eliminate the position Liisa now occupies, as the merged local could not have two people in the same position. Local 119 does not have a recording secretary position, so we are considering bringing that post into the new local.
Despite the pending merger, elections for unionwide officers will still be scheduled in November if a nominee faces a challenge. Nominations for the three unionwide positions of President, Secretary-Treasurer and Recording Secretary are scheduled for the next general membership meeting in October. Elections for unit officers take place in December if anyone nominated at the November meeting faces a challenger for the positions of Vice President and Unit Steward/Chairperson.
Additionally, Local 406’s controller, Susana Cortes, would remain in the same position handling both administrative and financial matters for the new local.
The new local would contract for services from Local 406’s current attorney, Marty Glennon, and financial advisor, Richard Maresca of Atalanta Sosnoff, but not those who have provided similar services for Local 119. The merged local will use Local 119’s accountant.
The merged local will share one name and a treasury.
The executive board is consulting with Glennon on what should be included in the merger agreement. Attorneys of both locals will confer on the final language. A Constitution and By-Laws for this new combined union must be drafted after the Merger Agreement is written and approved by a majority of voting members of both locals.
Local 406 will give up its offices on Conklin Street in Farmingdale and move into Local 119’s much larger offices on Wellwood Avenue in Farmingdale, a cost-saving measure.
The Executive Board recommends approval of this merger. It is a better fit because we will keep the same leadership structure with the presidency and have the ability to write a new merger agreement with a reasonable dues structure that keeps us solvent.