Overtime pay, ad taxes & postal reform are top issues for summit

Jan 13, 2016

WASHINGTON—Newspaper executives are headed to Washington on March 17 to address concerns about shifting many employees to overtime-eligible status. The looming possibility of advertising taxes is also on the table for the 2016 Community Newspaper Leadership Summit at the Crystal City Marriott, Arlington, VA. The National Newspaper Association continues to focus on threats to mail service with a push on Capitol Hill on postal reform and a new workshop for printers who prepare newspaper mail.

Last fall, the Obama administration announced its intent to sweep 10 million more workers into overtime pay eligibility by dramatically escalating the threshold salaries executives must earn to be counted as exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act. NNA surveys indicate few newsrooms will remain untouched by the new rules. The consequence will be fewer jobs, as publishers have to tighten budgets to meet the new rules.

To avoid job loss, NNA has called for more gradual escalation in the salary levels. NNA also has pointed out that if newsrooms could use compensatory time the way state and federal agencies do, employers could give news staff more flexibility to cover news and take time off later. But the FLSA prohibits that flexibility.

At the Summit, attendees will raise serious concerns about the aggressive new rules. They also will continue to battle against the temptation to fund federal program favorites by taxing advertising—a proposal that surfaced in the 113th Congress and remains temptingly on the revenue-raising list of tax writers in Congress.

Tonda F. Rush, NNA’s Washington office director, said the FLSA issues were hugely troubling.

“NNA’s members struggle to attract and keep excellent journalists and editors. Our problem is that the labor rules are so inflexible that today’s tight budgets consistently threaten journalists’ careers and the community’s ability to be informed. The regulators never really say where they think the money will come from for the massive increases they imagine employers can absorb. Everyone would like to make more money, and publishers would like to pay more or be able to offer employees the flexibility they need to balance work and family. But we are reaching deaf ears within the administration so far. So we have to talk to Congress,” she said.

The event will conclude with a dinner at the National Press Club, where 10 college editors and mentors participating in the NNA Foundation News Fellows program will be guests. Invited as keynote speaker is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

NNA President Chip Hutcheson said, “I have never seen a time when serious threats to our business are converging all at once. We are having a hard time getting our newspapers delivered. The taxman wants our revenues, and the Labor Department somehow thinks amidst all of this that a slow economy is a good time to hammer us again. We need to make our congressional delegations understand that we are an important and responsible part of the national economy, and also a critical partner in American democracy. I urge members to make the time to attend this summit.”

Information on the summit, as well as the printers workshop, is available at www.nnaweb.org.