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Maui News Workers Seek to Prevent Outsourcing of Community Coverage

Workers at The Maui News bargaining their next contract with have been met with corporate demands that are troubling for the newspaper and the community it serves: Outsourcing of work away from the islands.

At a time when local coverage and service are absolutely vital for health and safety, Ogden Newspapers is seeking the ability to have Mainland workers edit stories and design the pages our community uses every day for its information and well-being.

“Having people in Utah, Iowa or West Virginia making editorial decisions on stories, headlines and page design will just lead to inaccuracies, major cultural insensitivities and poor story selection,” said managing editor Lee Imada, a 39-year veteran of the paper. “How could those editors understand the wonderful diversity and nuances of this complex community of ours? It would rip the soul from The Maui News and would not be a good move for the community and readers we serve.”

Employees of the Pacific Media Workers Guild (The NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America Local 39521) are realistic about the industry and the challenges we face. Workers are on unpaid furloughs that began in April and have proposed reductions to severance pay. They have also been willing to volunteer for buyouts to create additional savings for the company and even offered to accept a company-proposed change to how layoffs would take place.

But, the West Virginia-based headquarters for Ogden have indicated they want to go further. Beyond the newsroom, they seek to be able to outsource advertising work — limiting the ability of local workers to collaborate with Maui County businesses for a source of revenue that keeps the paper functional.

“Outsourcing services that depend on personal contact, such as outside sales, news reporting and editing, would be especially harmful to our local newspaper,” said Wendy Isbell, a sales representative and chair of the Guild bargaining unit at The Maui News, where she has worked since 1989. “I don’t understand how one would expect to outsource sales to somewhere that doesn’t understand Hawaii’s culture. Being a lifetime resident and building lasting relationships with my clients for more than 30 years has led them to trust The Maui News.”

Maui News workers have a long history of working with Ogden with a shared goal of a vibrant paper that serves our community. Some decisions made by management are out of our control, but year after year, and decade after decade, when employees could offer financial relief, they found ways to pull in the same direction.

But being realistic about dollars and cents is one thing — farming out work is quite another. Be it digital or print, we need community work to be done by community workers. The Guild, then, is urging supporters of a strong local newspaper and a strong community to reach out to Maui News publisher Bart Leath at bleath@ogdennews.com to tell him they support the workers who make The Maui News strong

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