Cuts Spread at the San Francisco Chronicle
May 22, 2009: A new round of cuts at the San Francisco Chronicle is hitting Teamsters Local 853.
That’s the home local of Rome Aloise, one of Hoffa’s key point men and our newest International Vice President.
Under the deal, one hundred Local 853 drivers will lose their jobs. But those who stay won’t take a pay cut. And the Chronicle will make a one-time payment of $800,000 to their benefit fund.
The new deal will extend their current contract from 2010 until Dec. 31, 2015.
On June 1, the Chronicle will shift printing to a new nonunion facility. All of the pressmen in GCC Local 4-N will lose their jobs, as will all of the mailers in Local 853.
Over a hundred pressmen have applied for jobs at the new facility. Not one has been hired. All our union can say is that they’re monitoring the situation.
Why did Aloise get a better deal for the drivers? Maybe it’s because he’s always been willing to play ball when the employers wanted to pit members against members.
Back in 2005, before other unions could sign a contract, Aloise inked a deal that would require Local 853 members to cross a picket line if one of the other newspaper unions went on strike.
Teamster pressmen lost the successors and assigns language that could have helped us keep our jobs. And the Newspaper Guild members got one of their worst contracts ever (before this year).
Now over 200 union pressmen and over 100 mailers will be on unemployment. It’s time for our union officials to wake up and get into action. This is a race to the bottom.
By Bruce Carlton, Local 4-N, Retired
Manpower Turns Away 44-Year Pressman
January 29, 2009: When Teamsters found out their jobs were going to be outsourced at the San Francisco Chronicle, the paper told them to re-apply at the new facility. But when one 44-year pressman took the test, he was told he wasn’t qualified.
This summer, the San Francisco Chronicle will outsource 200 union jobs to a new nonunion facility in Fremont, California run by Transcontinental, a large Canadian printer. Teamster pressmen at the Chronicle are members of GCC/IBT Local 4-N / District Council 2.
Teamsters who want to keep their jobs have to re-apply through Manpower, the temporary agency.
That’s what Bruce Carlton did. Bruce is a retired member of Local 4-N, and a 44-year pressman who decided to take the online team member assesment. After passing that he went forward with a group interview .
But in a one-paragraph email sent Jan. 19, Manpower told Carlton “your assessment does not correspond with the requirements we are now recruiting for.”
Other Local 4-N members have also applied at Manpower. So far, not one has been hired.
“I have 44 years on the job experience,” said Carlton. “Is Transcontinental trying to hire the best people—or is their real goal to keep the union out?”
GCC President and Teamster International Vice President George Tedeschi has promised his support to the pressmen. Now it’s time for action.
“If this facility stays nonunion, it threatens Teamster pressmen in a 100 mile radius,” warned Carlton. “We need to insist that those jobs are union.”
Avista Has Only Itself To Blame In 'Strib' Bankruptcy
January 19, 2009: Avista Capital Partners says slumping revenue in a brutal climate for newspapers everywhere forced the bankruptcy of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune -- but media economist Robert Picard isn't buying it.
Picard also believes the bankruptcies of Tribune Co. last month and the Star-Tribune now are not necessarily harbingers of more newspapers filing Chapter 11. Both companies, he notes, are operated by chief executives new to the newspaper business, Tribune's Sam Zell a real estate businessman and the Avista partners private equity investors.
It wasn't the economy, but Avista's own business decisions that brought the Strib to bankruptcy, Picard argues.
Read the full article at Editor & Publisher.
Manpower Inc. to Take Teamster Jobs
January 10, 2009: Teamster pressmen are raising the alarm about a plan to outsource good union jobs at the San Francisco Chronicle.
In 2006, the Chronicle signed a 15-year, $1 billion deal to out source printing of their newspaper to Transcontinental, a large Canadian printer.
On July 1, the Chronicle will stop production at its San Francisco and Union City printing facilities. More than 200 Teamsters, members of GCC Local 4-N, will lose their jobs. Local 4-N is part of District Council 2 of the Teamsters Graphic Communications Conference.
Transcontinental will move production to a new printing facility in Fremont, Calif. The new pressroom will be nonunion.
Teamsters who want to move to the new facility can’t apply directly with Transcontinental—they’ve outsourced hiring to Manpower, Inc., the temporary agency and union-buster.
“I know of at least ten other pressmen who went for a group interview,” said Local 4-N member Tom Wibberley.
“Only two people got called back for a second interview. It seems pretty clear to me that Transcontinental and Manpower are trying to weed out potential union supporters.”
According to union reports, Transcontinental will pay new hires between $15 and $18 an hour. Senior pressmen at the Chronicle make between $28 and $31 an hour right now.
The Transcontinental facility will employ about 300 workers, and the company is already angling for other printing business in the Bay Area.
The new facility could print and deliver papers for morning delivery up to 100 miles away. That means pressmen are at risk as far away as Sacramento, Modesto, and Santa Rosa.
Petitioning for Action
“The Chronicle wants to replace good jobs that help our community with throwaway jobs,” Wibberley said. “They’re out to bust our union. But they won’t get away with it without a fight.”
In December, a majority of Local 4-N members signed a petition that was sent to leaders of the GCC and the International Union, demanding action to push for card check neutrality at the new plant, and to help displaced Teamsters get new jobs at the facility.
GCC President George Tedeschi responded to the petition and promised his support to the pressmen.
The GCC already has one good example of what can be done: Quebecor, another Canadian printing company that tried to run nonunion in the U.S.
The GCC launched a massive corporate campaign. They leafleted the printers’ customers like Ikea and Victoria’s Secret.
The union and Jobs with Justice held a Workers’ Rights Board hearing that brought together community leaders and workers to expose conditions at the nonunion plants, and then took a delegation of workers and community supporters to Quebecor’s headquarters.
The GCC campaign at Quebecor won card-check neutrality, and now many Quebecor workers are Teamsters.
It’s time for our union to put that same strategy to work at Transcontinental.
Don’t Let the Chronicle Throw Away Our Jobs
“The Chronicle wants to replace good union jobs that help our community with throwaway jobs.
“They’re out to bust our union. But they won’t get away with it without a fight.”
Tom Wibberley, GCC Local 4-N
San Francisco Chronicle
Star Tribune Pushes for Deep Cuts
January 10, 2009: Teamsters at the Star Tribune are joining forces with other union members to oppose cuts as the paper’s owner threatens bankruptcy.
Unions at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have been given the royal brush-off by the company.
The company is refusing to negotiate seriously with the unions, setting the stage for Avista, the newspaper owner, to file for bankruptcy.
Demands Avista made were so draconian, it was a virtual certainty the union bargaining committees would be obligated to reject them. The newspaper is making profits, but Avista says it cannot take in enough revenue to make payments on money it borrowed to buy the paper in 2007.
The proposals are so outrageous, members feel they stand a better chance bargaining after bankruptcy is filed.Bargaining committee members from several unions indicated it appeared the company was not serious about reaching an agreement with the unions, but was going through the motions in an attempt to persuade a bankruptcy judge that it tried to reach an agreement.
Union members know better. Here are details of the proposed cuts:
- Teamster pressmen: Avista proposed 13 percent wage cuts. Pressmen health benefits, which are 80 percent company-paid, 20 percent member-paid, would have dropped to nearly a 50/50 split. The company also wanted to cut the pressmen’s work force by 16 members to 76.
- Teamster mailers: Pay would have been cut to nonunion levels, from $25 to $15 an hour. Many members call it an outrage.
- Newspaper Guild: Avista wanted to eliminate overtime pay to assistant city editors. By eliminating overtime, it would make it easier for Avista to argue to the National Labor Relations Board that they are supervisors who don’t belong in the union.
- Teamster drivers: Annual pay would be cut 32 percent, from $53,700 to $36,500. “You can’t expect working families to live on such a drastic cut in income,” said 30-year Teamster Rick Sather. The company also wants a huge reduction in full-time drivers. “It breaks the union when those jobs are replaced by $13-an-hour, part-time workers who get no benefits,” Sather said.
- Electricians, Machinists, SEIU custodians: The company also sought major concessions from these unions.
“It shows the company sees its workers as more of a liability than an asset,” said Doug Rzeszutek, a 30-year pressman. “I’d like to see every union come together to support union and nonunion employees and reach out to the general public for support.”
Said Greg Kujawa, a 30-year Teamster driver, “What they are asking for is unconscionable. Avista does not care about the worker, the worker’s family or the community the family lives in. They are making profits of nine or ten percent from what I understand. They want the workers to pick up the tab on their bad investment decisions.”
“We all realize the company is in trouble, but they don’t give us a reason to vote for this thing,” said Bradley Hassel, a 36-year pressmen, referring to Avista’s demands.
“I think it is outrageous that the company is asking that I give up a third of my vacation time and that my medical insurance would be severely cut,” added Steve Pietrizak, a 42-year pressman.
“I’d like to encourage retirees from all the unions to step up and help their brothers and sisters who are still working,” said recent pressman retiree Dan Ganley. “The company is trying to destabilize the unions with unilateral, unnecessary demands.”
“Not only are all the union bargaining committees hanging together and not caving in to the company’s concessions, the members are also standing strong against the concessions,” said Sather. Some 400 “no concessions” buttons and stickers have been distributed.
Members are ready if the company files for bankruptcy. “We believe there is a lot of community support out there, a lot of labor support in the Twin Cities and we’ll need to harness it, working with all the unions at the paper to stand up for our rights,” said Chris Serres, a Guild member and reporter at the Star Tribune.
Opposition Grows to Star Tribune Cuts
December 23, 2008: As the owners at the Star Tribune in Minneapolis continue to make their case for huge contract concessions, a growing number of workers are making their voices heard.
They don’t like it.
Opposition is intense among production workers who are facing wage cuts up to 42 percent. But there is criticism of the concessions coming from all the unions.
Doug Rzeszutek, a 29-year pressman and Teamster member at the Star Tribune, said he had two kids in college. “How are they going to finish college if dad has to take a huge pay cut?” he asked.
“I think the mood is growing among the workers that ‘no concessions’ is the right way to go,” said Rick Sather, a newspaper driver and Teamster for 30 years. Many workers at the Heritage building, the newspaper’s production facility, have been wearing “No Concessions” buttons and stickers.
No Concessions, No Dessert
Avista, the private equity firm which bought the newspaper two years ago, cancelled its free Christmas dinner last Thursday, a traditional annual event that for decades has been held for workers in the cafeteria of its downtown Minneapolis newspaper building and at Heritage. Instead the company offered the workers a dessert buffet—cake and cookies.
Rank and file workers at Heritage organized a boycott. “No concessions, no dessert,” read a sign workers posted at the entrance of the Heritage cafeteria.
Chris Harte, the company publisher, went into the lunchroom cafeteria at Heritage while the dessert was set out. He sat at a table with members of middle management. Workers were uninterested in talking to him as they filed into the cafeteria for lunch.
Sather sat at a nearby table with a sign on his back that read “no concessions.”
On Thursday night, Harte returned to Heritage to talk to workers on the late shifts when the desserts were set out again.
When Sather said that there was a problem in the platemaking department that kept the presses from starting, Harte left the lunchroom and went upstairs to see what was going on. When Harte passed by the presses, pressmen started to boo him and Harte turned around and walked the other way.
In the newsroom, which is organized by the Newspaper Guild, rank-and-file workers organized their own pot luck buffet to replace the dinner that the company decided not to have.
Avista has been threatening the unions, saying it will go bankrupt unless it can extract $20 million in concessions. While the company has been making profits, it borrowed large sums to buy the Star Tribune and has been unable to repay the loans. Instead of Avista digging into its own pockets to meet the debt payments, it is putting the squeeze on the unions for the concessions.
The mailers, who are Teamsters, face wage cuts of 42 percent. It is reported that the mailers union told the company that its concessionary proposals will not fly with their members. Sather said that representatives of the Teamster drivers met last week and also turned down the company proposal.
A meeting with the company and the pressmen is scheduled for Dec. 30, said Kevin Bialon, a member of the pressmen bargaining committee. “We’ll listen,” he said.
But Bialon said the company has already laid off 19 pressmen, reducing their numbers to around a hundred, and wants to cut the pressmen’s numbers to 74—severely weakening the union. Besides pay cuts, Avista wants to stop paying pressmen overtime until they reach 40 hours, meaning they could work long shifts on a given day without overtime. The company also wants to stop contributing to the pressmen’s pension.
“It’s worse that what we turned down before,” said Bialon. Over the summer, the members of the pressmen’s union twice voted overwhelmingly to reject concessionary proposals from the company.
David Chanen, Newspaper Guild unit co-chair, said, “The company’s initial proposal, which was presented at a meeting last Friday, was again considered to be unacceptable and would do serious damage to the current contract which was just ratified in July.
“The concessions included taking away merit pay and barring it in the future to specific pay scales, arbitrarily taking away merit pay from newsroom employees, taking away overtime pay to workers in supervisory positions and freezing the pension and pay.”
Paying for Avista’s Mistakes
“Over the years,” said pressman Rzeszutek, “I would say 100 percent of people in the press room have been proud to work for this newspaper. And I think this percentage has largely swung in the other direction. I think the company is asking us to pay for their mistakes. I think that’s totally wrong.”
Doug Toensing, another 29-year pressman, said the company is “top heavy” with executives, and before it demands cuts from the union membership, it should take big cuts itself.
He also said it could be a health and safety hazard if the company can schedule pressmen for long hours each day without having to pay overtime until a worker reaches 40 hours. “I think it is very wrong,” he said.
A Newspaper Workers Rank and File Solidarity Support Committee has organized to build support for the unions in resisting the company’s union busting demands.
The harshest wage cuts are being reserved for the production workers, noted Chis Serres, a reporter and a member of the Guild and the solidarity committee.
“A union job used to be a ticket to the middle class,” he said. “But there is no way a driver or a mailer or a pressman will be able to support a family or send their kids to college on the kind of wages Avista wants to pay them. They deserve better. We deserve better.”
Avista Demands Cuts at Star Tribune
December 12, 2008: Avista has launched a new assault on the unions at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, demanding the unions agree to the union-busting conditions by early January.
The private equity firm is proposing to slash wages to nonunion levels.
Among those targeted are the three Teamster units at the Star Tribune, but every union is facing cruel demands from the company.
Avista, which bought Minnesota’s largest newspaper nearly two years ago, has indicated to the unions that if they do not agree to the union-breaking terms, it could file for bankruptcy.
While that could be true, newspaper analysts predicted that when Avista purchased the Star Tribune, it would do what other private equity firms do—slash costs and then resell the newspaper at a tidy profit. Some observers speculate that Avista might have a buyer who is waiting in the wings to purchase the newspaper after the company slashes payroll and takes the wrecking ball to the unions.
Star Tribune bosses have told the unions that Avista has been unable to make loan payments to its banks, requiring it to demand new concessions from the unions.
Several unions are on the verge of voting to negotiate with the company.
A Newspaper Workers Rank and File Solidarity Support Committee, formed during the summer to resist the concessions, is campaigning among union members throughout the Star Tribune to promote union solidarity.
Some of the company’s proposals are so horrendous that they would essentially make it a nonunion shop. Further, the company is proposing some drastic cuts that would so weaken the unions that they would be unable to effectively resist even more union-busting demands in the next round, either with Avista or a new employer.
Under the proposal, full-time Teamster newspaper drivers would see their hourly pay cut from $27.19 to $18.50 per hour. That would cut annual pay from $53,700 to $36,500, a 32 percent pay cut. In addition, the full-time drivers would be sharply reduced with the bulk of the work going to low-paid part-timers.
The Pressmen, who are also Teamsters, twice voted to reject concessionary packages in recent months. Under a new proposal from the company, the concessions are even bigger, reducing their numbers and cutting the pay of journeymen by 12 percent.
The Mailers, who are also members of the Teamsters Union, face grim concessionary demands that would see their pay reduced by 42 percent.
The Newspaper Guild, which is affiliated with the Communication Workers of America, agreed to a concessionary three-year contract that took effect Aug. 1, yet Avista has come back again, proposing to freeze pay for all three years, negating a small increase in the second half of the contract. Pensions would be frozen. The company also proposed to eliminate overtime pay for assistant city editors, a significant portion of the work force.
The Newspaper Workers Rank and File Solidarity Support Committee, made up of rank-and-filers from the various newspaper unions, has made clear that it supports every union effort to stand up to Avista.
It is pointing out to workers that the company is pursuing a divide and conquer strategy in which some unions may be getting hit harder than others. “Even if your union is not hammered as hard as another, an injury to one is an injury to all,” the committee says in a flyer being distributed to workers.
The drivers union at the Star Tribune has long been a strong Teamster unit in the Twin Cities. But if the drivers union is beaten by sharply reducing their numbers and wages, then every union at the Star Tribune will suffer.
“In the end, we will all be busted,” the flyer from the committee states. “We need union solidarity.”
Teamsters Take on Corporate Greed at Star Tribune
September 19, 2008: Teamster pressmen at the Minneapolis Star Tribune have voted down concessions for a second time this year, voiding concessions for two other Teamster locals at the newspaper.
As Convoy goes to press on Sept. 18, the Star Tribune has laid off 19 pressmen and seven other employees, even though Minnesota’s largest newspaper remains highly profitable.
When union members rejected the concessions, they knew that some layoffs were a distinct possibility.
On Sept. 10, pressmen in GCC Local 1-M voted down a proposed contract that would have cut wages by 16 percent over the life of the deal and forced major takebacks.
“The company is asking us to slash our own throats to save their profits,” said Kevin Bialon, a union negotiator who has been a pressman for 27 years in an interview in early September. “In return, they were giving us empty promises about a possible future. There were no guarantees that there wouldn’t be future cuts.”
The vote to reject the contract was 80 to 29.
Concessions Voided for Other Teamsters
There are two other Teamster locals at the Star Tribune—the drivers in Local 638 and the mailers in Local 120. Members in those two locals voted by wide margins to approve major concessions in July, but significant opposition developed and many members signed petitions and sought a revote.
Local 638 and 120 officials then notified the Star Tribune that a concession plan that members had approved earlier was “null and void” because the Teamster pressmen voted down the giveback plan.
The concessionary packages included 10 percent wage cuts, elimination of previously negotiated wage increases, and major givebacks in other aspects of the contract.
Troubled Time for Avista?
The Star Tribune is owned by Avista, a private equity firm, which bought it two years ago. Avista has had trouble meeting its debt payments and demanded that unions at the newspaper reopen their existing contracts.
There have been hints that the company might seek bankruptcy, but Avista has denied rumors publicly. Avista couldn’t get the sacrifice they wanted through concessions. So now they’ve turned to laying off pressmen.
Members at the Star Tribune have shown that they are willing to find a solution that protects Teamster jobs and helps the company solve its problems.
Bargaining committees for all the unions at the newspaper had agreed to work with the company to come up with acceptable deals. It appears Avista has become overly greedy.
No Vote Voids Concessions at Star Tribune
September 12, 2008: Attempts by the Minneapolis Star Tribune to wrest major concessions from three Teamster unions, representing pressmen, drivers and mailers, hit more roadblocks on Thursday.
Teamster officials representing the drivers in Local 638 notified the Star Tribune that a concession plan that members earlier approved was “null and void” because the Teamster pressmen voted down the giveback plan earlier in the week.
Officials for the mailers, represented by Teamsters Local 120, have also reportedly told the company that the concession plan has been voided as a result of the pressmen’s opposition to the deal. The concessionary packages included 10 percent wage cuts, elimination of previously negotiated wage increases, and major givebacks in other aspects of the contract.
The Star Tribune is owned by Avista, a private equity firm, which bought it two years ago. Minnesota’s largest newspaper remains highly profitable, but Avista has had trouble meeting its debt payments and demanded that unions at the newspaper reopen their existing contracts.
While bargaining committees for all the unions at the newspaper had agreed to work with the company to come up with acceptable deals, it appears that Avista became overly greedy. It demanded a level of sacrifice that would drastically reduce the standard of living of workers and seriously undermine the unions. Pressroom members said “no,” and many drivers and mailers now have similar thoughts.
On July 31, the drivers, mailers and pressmen each voted on the concessions demanded by the Star Tribune. At the time, Teamster Joint Council 32 officials said that if any of the three unions rejected the deal it would be dead for all three unions. The mailers and drivers approved the concessions by big margins but the pressmen overwhelmingly voted it down.
Teamster officials then stated that the concessionary package would remain in place for the mailers and drivers. That spurred petition drives by the mailers and drivers. Many said they wanted to join the pressmen in rejecting the original offer.
On Monday, the pressmen voted a second time by 80-29 to reject the concession package. The givebacks were very similar to the ones the Star Tribune demanded earlier.
A memorandum to the drivers was posted Thursday by Robert Moore, Teamster Local 638 business agent, and Mark Rime, the local’s secretary treasurer. It said this:
“As you are probably aware, on Monday, Sept. 8, 2008, the Pressmen of Local 1M rejected the company offer. It is our position with management that the offer voted on by Local 638 members on July 31, 2008 is null and void. The contract that you voted on in November 2007 is in effect and the wages, pension, health and welfare and all working conditions will remain the same.”
The memorandum goes on to state that Teamster officials spoke with Randy Lebedoff, the Star Tribune’s attorney, on Thursday. “At this time, she is not sure what the management at the Star Tribune will do in the future,” the two Teamster officials wrote. “She said she hopes to have some answers in the next few days. At that time, they will contact us and we will relay any correspondence onto the bargaining unit.”
Read related articles about the contract fight at the Star Tribune at the Minnesota Independent and MinnPost.
Minnesota Newspaper Teamsters Say No to Concessions
September 10, 2008: For the second time in a month, Teamsters in the Pressman’s Union at the Minneapolis Star Tribune voted overwhelmingly to reject their proposed contract.
The contract would have cut wages by 16 percent over the life of the deal and forced major concessions on the union.
“The company is asking us to slash our own throats to save their profits,” said Kevin Bialon, a union negotiator who has been a pressman for 27 years. “In return, they were giving us empty promises about a possible future. There were no guarantees that there wouldn’t be future cuts.”
The vote to reject the contract was 80 to 29. Five weeks ago, the pressmen voted 77 to 27 against virtually the same givebacks.
“They wanted us to give up contract clauses that we’ve won over the past 80 years and in return we’d get nothing,” said a second union member.
The Pressmen are Teamsters as a result of a decision by the Graphic Communications International Union to join the IBT several years ago. There are two other Teamster locals at the Star Tribune—the drivers in Local 638 and the mailers in Local 120. Members in those two locals voted to approve major concessions last month, despite significant opposition by some members. But Star Tribune Teamsters in all three locals were told by a Teamsters Joint Council 32 official that if one local turned down the agreement, it would kill the agreement for all of them.
But now the Joint Council is saying they never said that, and are insisting that the bad contracts approved by the drivers and mailers will stand.
That has led to petition drives inside both the drivers and mailers to protest the Joint Council’s position, signed by about half the members in each unit.
Rick Sather, a driver and member of Local 638, said there is a growing sense among the drivers and mailers that it was a mistake for them to vote in favor of the givebacks.
“There are a lot of mailers and drivers who are congratulating the pressmen for taking their stand—voting ‘no’ twice,” said Sather. “Members are saying if the pressmen can reject these concessions, cutting wages and jobs, than we can, too.”
The pressmen have had a long tradition of maintaining good union standards and it has provided a livelihood for generations of workers. Fathers, sons, and grandsons have worked at the newspaper.
The current Pressmen’s contract does not expire until December 2010, but Avista, the corporate owner of the Star Tribune, pushed to reopen it.
Big Concessions on Jobs, Wages
Under the proposed givebacks, the pressmen would have lost about 60 of the 340 shifts per week, sharply reducing the workforce. Besides putting unfair production pressures on the members, it would endanger job safety.
The company also wanted to scrap long-time overtime provisions designed to make the company pay a penalty if it brought back pressmen on short rest. Currently, if a member of the union worked a shift within 12 hours of their last shift, it would pay time and a half. Under the givebacks, that would be given up.
Another long-standing provision is that any work over 7 hours in a day is paid at time and a half. Under the giveback proposal, no overtime would be paid until 40 hours in a week.
Another big issue is wages. Besides cutting members’ pay by 10 percent, union members would not have received scheduled increases of $1 an hour in December of 2008 and another $1 an hour in December 2009. In total, the givebacks would be a 16 percent wage cut over the next two years.
The Joint Council pressed all three locals to adopt the concessions in August, warning Teamster members that to vote against the deals would lead to the company going bankrupt.
After the givebacks were rejected by the pressmen in August, the bargaining committee was flown to Washington, D.C. to meet with company officials at the Teamsters’ headquarters, known as the Marble Palace. The company made slight changes in the big concession proposal before the second vote this week.
The bargaining committee did not support the concessionary agreement before the first vote. On the second vote this week, the committee did not urge members to vote “yes” or “no.”
“The company was asking the union for help, but they wanted to do nothing to protect our jobs, to get some job security,” said one member. The company wanted 18 buyouts of older workers, and rejected the idea that they be replaced with younger workers.
Currently, the union has 51 members who have lifetime job guarantees, 51 with guarantees for the life of the contract, and 29 without any guarantees. The union asked for more protection for current members, which the company rejected.
“They are trying to rape us,” said the union member. “It’s time to take a stand.”
Another concern of pressmen was that the bosses went after employees while they feathered their own nests. “Management wanted all the rank and file to take pay cuts, but they wouldn’t take them themselves,” said Bialon of the Pressman’s Union. “In fact, they took a partial bonus.”
Corporate Raiders Behind the Union Busting
The Star Tribune, the largest daily newspaper in Minnesota, with a Sunday circulation over 600,000, was purchased by Avista, a private equity firm, about two years ago. At the time, analysts stated and Star Tribune officials acknowledged that it would be a short-term purchase. The strategy of Avista would be to dramatically slash costs, then resell the company at a tidy profit.
Over the last few months, Avista has been leaking information that it couldn’t make its debt payments, though it has been widely speculated, with no denials from the company, that—as with other newspapers across the country—its profits are doing well. Still, with a faltering economy, advertising is down, and much of the classified ad revenue has migrated to the Internet. Avista allowed unions at the Star Tribune to look at the newspaper’s books, but pointedly did not show the unions Avista’s books.
Avista officials told the media earlier this year that the Star Tribune is in good financial shape and there is a widespread belief that its attempts to gut the unions is all about making as much money as possible for Avista’s investors, most of whom are unknown.