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 (email@example.com) is a senior editor at E&P.
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."