Chronicle avatars ‘strike’ over healthcare

The simple red square you see today in place of your favorite San Francisco Chronicle writer’s social media avatar is meant to send a simple message: We’re sick of this.

In this case, workers are steamed over much higher healthcare costs, part of the latest contract offer from the Hearst Corporation to editorial workers at the Chronicle.

The Pacific Media Workers Guild contract with Hearst expired last June, but “good faith” negotiations have continued since.

According to the Guild, Hearst’s latest offer calls for a 1.5 percent pay increase in each of the next four years, but no increase in the $150 contribution Hearst makes per week, per full-time employee toward healthcare costs.

Kat Anderson, business agent for the Pacific Media Workers Guild, told SFBay that Hearst wants workers to dump the union’s health and welfare trust — which has protected workers since 1964 — to enroll instead in the Hearst Benefits Plan.

For a sample six-year employee who wanted to maintain similar coverage, this change would mean an increase in out-of-pocket healthcare costs of about $300 every month, Anderson said.

Anderson told SFBay that Hearst zeroed in on the Guild’s health and welfare trust plan from the beginning of this round of contract negotiations last May:

“It’s not about money, it’s about control. They don’t want the union to have a say in healthcare anymore.”

San Francisco Chronicle Publisher Frank Vega told SFBay — before hanging up the phone:

“We’re not commenting on anything having to do with negotiations.”