Skip to comments.Tough time for Blade, employees (Dinosaur Media DeathWatch™)
Posted on 08/22/2006 1:51:16 PM PDT by abb
REGRETTABLY, The Blade today finds itself in a labor dispute with the people who traditionally have mattered most to the company: our employees and their families.
We wish it were not so. We wish that it had not become necessary to utilize a management prerogative with an unfortunate sounding name - a lockout. So we believe it is instructive to explain for our readers, and indeed, for our own workers, why we are at this point.
The simple truth is that The Blade is bleeding financially and cannot continue to operate indefinitely under such circumstances. The company would not be proposing wage reductions and other concessions if our economic situation were not so severe. Our unions, in fact, do not dispute that our financial condition is dire. One of them, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has already accepted a new contract.
Part of the problem is human nature. When economic times are good, it could be argued that management has little incentive to settle, because costs will only go up when they do. Conversely, when times are bad, unions have no real motivation to accept a new contract that will reduce wages because delay means they can keep getting paid at their old levels.
That is where we find ourselves, and it is why we have initiated a lockout of some of our employees. The company considers a lockout to be the management equivalent of a strike by labor, and we believe it to be a legitimate tool in collective bargaining.
Blade employees are paid extremely well. Over the years our labor contracts have provided our employees with outstanding pay and fringe benefits, and many have spent their entire careers here as a result. But though these contracts procured labor peace, they kept our profit margins relatively small.
(Excerpt) Read more at toledoblade.com ...
"REGRETTABLY, The Blade today finds itself in a labor dispute with the people who traditionally have mattered most to the company: our employees and their families.
"We wish it were not so. We wish that it had not become necessary to utilize a management prerogative with an unfortunate sounding name - a lockout. So we believe it is instructive to explain for our readers, and indeed, for our own workers, why we are at this point.
The simple truth is that The Blade is bleeding financially and cannot continue to operate indefinitely under such circumstances. The company would not be proposing wage reductions and other concessions if our economic situation were not so severe. Our unions, in fact, do not dispute that our financial condition is dire. One of them, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, has already accepted a new contract."
One can only hope that the unions become suicidial and act like Kamikazis as reality hits pseudo news rooms across the land.
Great job of slamming them with their own words as reality kicks them into the dust bowl of history.
A signal day, Dave. A surfeit of good news!!
Also, all of the Enronning and Arthur Anderson tricks the big boys of Dinosaur Fishwraps are coming back to haunt them. Buy backs, a year later are like trying to deal with starving bears after you have had a blood bath.
Second Union Locked Out At 'The Blade' -- Is the Guild Next?
By Joe Strupp
Published: August 23, 2006 10:55 AM ET
NEW YORK For the second time in three days, The Blade of Toledo, Ohio has locked out members of one of its eight bargaining units, choosing to keep all nine paper handlers off the job early this morning.
Assistant managing editor LuAnn Sharp told E&P the nine-person unit of the Graphic Communications International Union was locked out at 2 a.m. today. The workers are the second Blade unit of the GCIU to be kept off work this week. On Sunday, another nine workers in the GCIU engraver's unit were locked out.
Both groups are among seven bargaining units currently engaged in contract negotiations, including the 350-member Newspaper Guild. Sharp said the lockouts are the papers way of putting pressure on the unions for new contracts, which have not been in place since the previous agreements ended March 21.
"We really, really want to get this done," she said. "You can't make movement or accomplish anything f you are not meeting. We are serious and want to get back to the table." She added that temporary employees and managers are taking over the paper handlers' and engravers' work during the lock out.
Union leaders, who could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday morning, reacted to the first lockout with a subscriber and advertisers' boycott, which asks readers to stop their subscriptions and urges advertisers to withdraw their support in protest of the lockout.
"We told them we didn't want a strike, we didn't want a boycott, we wanted to talk," Larry Vellequette, a spokesman for the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions, which oversees several of the paper's unions, said Monday. He could not be reached for comment today.
Sharp said the newspaper entered into mediation twice in the past month with GCIU representatives, but found no progress in either meeting. She said the paper is taking the lockout approach because it is under severe economic pressure to get a new contract with a salary reduction and added health benefit contributions by workers.
"We need to address some big economic issues - wages, health care benefits," said Sharp, referring to GCIU members. "Right now, they make no health benefit contributions."
Sharp even hinted that the guild could face a lockout if it does not come to an agreement in the near future. Although guild representatives are set to meet with management today, Sharp points out that an agreement has yet to materialize.
"There is still the option of a lockout for them," Sharp said about the guild, which represents half of the paper' s unionized workers. "It is something we would consider if we can't get an agreement."
At least one of the paper's bargaining units has reached an ageement, Sharp said. She said the 20-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local signed a new deal in July that included a 7% salary cut.
Joe Strupp (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editor at E&P.
Why isn't their RAT/lib/socialist/NAG HAG, Marcy Kaptur, up there supporting her union toadies and standing up to "The Man"??
Toledo's 'Blade' Locks Out Three More Unions
By E&P Staff
Published: August 27, 2006 8:15 PM ET updated 8:45 PM
NEW YORK Management at The Blade in Toledo told workers from three more unions -- representing mailers, drivers and printers -- on Sunday not to come back until they agree on a contract.
"The company said it locked out the drivers who take the papers to drop-off points, workers who process some advertisements, and employees who assemble the paper and its inserts to try to ratchet up the pressure on the unions to bargain and to reach a settlement," the newspaper reports on its Web site on Sunday.
The number locked out Sunday in the ongoing dispute was about 200 employees -- dramatically hiking the total of locked out workers to almost 220. Only two unions are left in the building. There are about 500 fulltime workers at the paper.
Blade spokesperson Luann Sharp told local TV station WTOL, "It's kind of a last ditch effort here. We need to get it done. I don't know how else we can strongly send the message. It's urgent we get this done."
Union spokesperson Larry Vellequette told the station, "It's a very ugly strategy in Toledo. Toledo has a high union density. Everybody that has a job that cares about what they do ought to cancel their Blade."
The union said it turned in 500 subscription cancellations over the weekend, WTOL revealed, and they have also asked for an ad boycott.
"We have been trying to negotiate for more than six months, and basically have been stalled at every turn," said Sharp, in the Blade's account.
"We have opened our books -- in May and again this month -- and the union leaders know what challenges we are facing. We need to get back to the bargaining table and find a way to get agreements.
"I hope our employees realize our sense of urgency to get this dispute behind us so we can start fixing what's broken. Delay works against all of us."
No negotiating sessions are scheduled.
The Blade report continued: "The employees barred from their work will be replaced by temporary workers and will be entitled to return to their jobs once an agreement is signed, Ms. Sharp said.
"The moves have not disrupted production of the paper, she said.
"Expected to report to work, Ms. Sharp said, are members of the Toledo Newspaper Guild and a Graphics Communication local of pressmen. The Guild represents reporters, photographers, copy editors, advertising sales people, and circulation workers, and the Graphic Communication union represents people who run the machines that print the newspaper.
"The company, owned by Block Communications Inc., has been financially struggling and wants wage cuts, higher employee contributions to health care premiums, and work rule changes that would save money and could increase revenues.
"Union leaders said they have offered significant concessions on wages and agreed to share more in health care costs. However, they contend that the company proposal is asking for too much and that proposed work rule changes would allow the firm to outsource jobs and thus diminish union job-security protections."
Blade tries to spark talks with more lockouts
The MSM bubble is popping. It's becoming a newspaper buyer's market. Hey MSM - cut the fat, report the facts - there's too much competition for you to ignore. hahahahahahahahahaha
The Blade' Operating Fine Without Locked Out Employees, Says GM
By Joe Strupp
Published: August 28, 2006 12:30 PM ET
NEW YORK One day after locking out some 200 non-editorial employees in three bargaining units, the general manager of The Blade in Toledo, Ohio says the paper is operating fine, and with less than half the number of workers who were kept out.
Joseph Zerbey, vice president and general manager of The Blade, says only 50 to 60 temporaries were needed to replace the locked-out employees that were barred from entry on Sunday. Those included members of the Teamsters Local 20, Toledo Typographical Local 63, and Toledo Mailers Local 1135, according to the paper.
"Because of the untenable work rules here, we don't need to replace everyone," Zerbey said. "We brought in a lot fewer people than we locked out." He declined to elaborate on the work rules, but said they require more people on certain jobs than he believes are necessary. "There are rules in there that a normal general manager would never do," he said about the locked-out unions' contracts. "There are restrictions in there that don't allow us to do our job, [and institute] manning requirements."
Despite the decreased workforce, Zerbey said the paper was produced and delivered on time Monday. "We were on time, the paper was larger, full of color, full of ads and we didn't miss a beat," Zerbey said.
Larry Vellequette, a spokesman for The Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions, did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Lillian Covarrubias, president of the local Newspaper Guild, also could not be reached.
A notice on the Guild Web site Monday criticized the lockouts and sought to remind the public that this was not a strike. "The Blade took these vicious actions unilaterally and without provocation. During the past month, Union representatives have repeatedly told The Blade that they had no intention of striking, boycotting or engaging in any other form of job action," the statement said. "The Unions even went so far as to offer an immediate 5% wage rebate while bargaining for new contracts continued. But The Blade is determined to attack its employees."
Those workers who were locked out Sunday handle jobs that include driving papers to drop-off points for carriers, processing some advertisements, and assembling the paper and its inserts, the Blade reported. The lockout is the third such move in the past week.
Last week, the paper locked out two bargaining units of the Graphic Communications International Union, which represent a combined 18 employees in the engravers and paper handlers units.
The five locked-out groups are among seven bargaining units currently engaged in contract negotiations, including the 350-member Newspaper Guild, which remains on the job. Blade spokeswoman LuAnn Sharp has said the lockouts are the paper's way of putting pressure on the unions for new contracts, which have not been in place since the previous agreements ended March 21.
Union leaders reacted to the first lockout with a subscriber and advertisers boycott, which they stepped up over the weekend.
Zerbey would not discuss specifics of the ongoing contract negotiations. But he stressed that any of the unions could come back to work if they signed the proposals put forth by the company. Those include unspecified salary cuts and new contributions to health insurance premiums.
At least one of the paper's bargaining units has reached an agreement, the paper said. The 20-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local signed a new deal in July that included a 7% salary cut. Guild representatives, meanwhile, held their last negotiating session last Wednesday.
"We would be happy to negotiate with them, but they have yet to schedule a meeting," Zerbey said about the locked-out unions. "They can only come back if they sign a contract the company wants them to sign."
Zerbey said the paper can continue to operate without the locked-out workers for as long as necessary.
Although no violence or other disruptions had occurred at the paper by locked-out employees, Zerbey said the paper had increased security at the building in recent weeks. "This is a professional argument," he said of the union dispute. "I don't expect any of that nonsense."
When asked if the cost-cutting and union lockouts were part of an effort to make the paper more attractive to buyers by the Block family, which owns it, Zerbey said no plans were in place for a sale. "There is no intent to sell the Blade if they can fix it," he said, adding that fixing it would mean "a reasonable [profit] margin. There is no margin."
Joe Strupp (email@example.com) is a senior editor at E&P.
Locked-Out 'Blade' Unions Fire Back with Media Blitz, NLRB Charges
By Joe Strupp
Published: August 29, 2006 4:55 PM ET
NEW YORK Locked-out unions at The Blade of Toledo, Ohio fired back at the newspaper Tuesday with a local media blitz aimed at raising awareness of the paper's "lockouts" and the current contract negotiation stalemate.
Larry Vellequette, spokesman for the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions, said the umbrella labor group had bought space on 15 local billboards and launched a radio campaign of 60-second spots that seeks to denounce the lockout of five of the newspaper's eight unions.
He also claims that the unions have contacted at least 300 Blade advertisers as part of an advertising boycott that launched last week, just days after the lockout began. Vellequette said that at least six major auto dealers have stopped advertising. "I know that some of the advertisers that have pulled out are half a million dollar a year advertisers," Vellequette said. "And they have said they are not signing contracts until this is over."
Blade advertising officials couldn't be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Union leaders claim the paper has offered some former advertisers space for free ads as a way to counter the boycott. The unions also are continuing a subscription boycott, which saw some 500 subscribers cancel last weekend via cards turned in by the union.
Blade spokeswoman Luann Sharp, who is also a newsroom editor, said she only knew of three advertisers who had pulled ads, and said at least one had returned. She also disputed the claim that the paper had been offering any free ad space. "I believe that is not true," she said.
Vellequette said the union can survive on unemployment insurance and strike pay as long as necessary. But he hoped the lockouts would be over as soon as possible. "We want to have a paper when we are done, we have to walk a fine line," Vellequette said. "If the boycott is too successful and the Blade never comes back, no one wins."
The ad boycott and media campaign are the latest moves in the ongoing labor battle at the paper, which reached a new level of intensity last week when the paper locked out two bargaining units of the Graphic Communications International Union, which represent a combined 18 employees in the engravers and paper handlers units.
The lockout expanded to three more unions on Sunday when about 200 employees represented by the Teamsters Local 20, Toledo Typographical Local 63, and Toledo Mailers Local 1135 were bared from employment. Those workers handle jobs that include driving papers to drop-off points for carriers, processing some advertisements, and assembling the paper and its inserts, the Blade reported.
In addition, two unfair labor charges have been filed by one of the unions with the National Labor Relations Board since the lockouts began, according to an NLRB official.
Blade officials have claimed the lockouts are the paper's way of pressuring the unions to negotiate new contracts after their last agreements ended in March. Management says the paper needs wage cuts, increased employee health care contributions, and other changes in order to reach profitability.
Vellequette said the unions have agreed to wage cuts and increased health premiums. He said the labor leaders even offered to take an immediate 5% pay cut before any contract is signed as a show of good faith. "They rejected all of it," Vellequette said. "We truly believe the Blade is not profitable and we want to help them."
The five locked-out groups are among seven bargaining units currently engaged in contract negotiations, including the 350-member Newspaper Guild, which remains on the job. At least one of the paper's bargaining units has reached an agreement, the paper said. The 20-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local signed a new deal in July that included a 7% salary cut.
Blade officials have said they have been operating the newspaper well without the locked-out workers, noting that only 50 to 60 temporary workers have been needed to replace the previous 200 employees. The unions' contracts require that they get their old jobs back when a new contract is signed. But until then the paper can keep them out.
Joe Strupp (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a senior editor at E&P.
There's something wrong when 200 employees workload is being done by one-fourth that amount.