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Conference of Newspaper Unions, AFL-CIO, announces settlement.

SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 12, 1994--The eight unions striking the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner announced early this morning that they had reached a tentative contract settlement with the newspapers.

The announcement came 12 days after the 2,600 members of the Conference of Newspaper Unions struck the Chronicle, Examiner and Newspaper Agency, which produces the newspapers. The previous contract expired Nov. 1, 1993.

The proposed settlement was pounded out over the past several days with Mayor Frank Jordan acting as a key mediator. Jordan had requested that both sides come to his office and meet day after day until they could agree.

Under the tentative agreement, the workers won moderate wage increases, health and safety protections, domestic partner provisions and family leave benefits. The proposed contract also limited the employers' ability to replace full-time jobs with part-time work that offered less security and fewer benefits.

``We worked long and hard to hammer out a fair settlement that would give workers a living wage and grant them better protections and benefits,'' said Doug Cuthbertson, chairman of the Conference of Newspaper Unions.

Cuthbertson gave great credit to Mayor Jordan for his role in bringing the two sides together. For the past several days, the mayor acted as a mediator on difficult provisions separating labor and management. Labor officials also praised federal mediator Clarence Washington, who worked long hours to help craft an agreement. Labor officials also thanked Jim Wunderman, the mayor's chief of staff, Carl Bunch, the mayor's labor negotiator, and Jonathan Holtzman, special assistant to the city attorney.

Shortly before the agreement was announced, Jordan left his office to catch a long-scheduled flight for Vietnam, where he will join a delegation from San Francisco.

Cuthbertson said the eight striking unions had achieved a solidarity of purpose that may stand as the single most important victory of the year-long negotiations and strike. He said the overwhelming support shown by the Bay Area community and the national labor movement helped solidify the unions' resolve to walk the picket line until they achieved a fair contract. He credited a de-advertising campaign designed by George Curtin, a top organizer for the AFL-CIO, as one of the major forces prompting the employers to work out differences with the unions within days after the strike began.

``The success of this strike will be looked upon as a rallying point for unions across the country,'' said Cuthbertson. ``Some pundits have said the union movement is on the wane. In San Francisco, we have proved them wrong.''

The locals representing the workers who write, edit, print and distribute the two newspapers all must ratify the proposed settlement before they return to work. Those votes on the five-year contract are to take place as soon as possible. Details of when union members will actually be back in the newspaper plants on the job remain to be worked out between the employers and unions. Picket lines were taken down at 4:35 a.m.

The unions achieved a pay package that will put an additional $105 a week in their paychecks, pension and welfare plans over the term of the contract. That represents an average increase of 3 percent per year.

Individual unions won key provisions affecting their own membership, including a Teamster measure that for the first time provided new seniority rights protections. The Newspaper Guild achieved a provision permitting parents to work part-time until their small children reach kindergarten, and the Guild also won an extra pay raise for librarians. The mailers' union, which has experienced a high rate of injury at the Union City plant, won management's agreement to conduct an ergonomic study of the problem. The pressmen's union strengthened guarantees that the operation of presses would be done by union members. The printers' union got job security provisions for current employees and added trainees to the composing room.

The janitors gained recognition for their union at the satellite production plants. Also affected by the proposed contract were the paper handlers and vendors. The machinists' union, which respected the picket line but is not part of the Conference, reached a tentative agreement with the companies on Thursday night.

When the unions struck, one of the biggest stalemates was over the companies' push to redesign their newspaper distribution system. The unions argued that the companies' proposal in this area was far too vague and amounted to a blank check for eliminating jobs. In recent days, the negotiations focused extensively on working out a settlement that gave management the ability to make some changes it sought while limiting those changes in key areas to an attrition-based formula.

In the closing hours of negotiations, one of the most difficult issues the two sides wrestled with was whether to grant amnesty for actions during the strike. Under the proposed agreement, all employees will return to work without any threat of discipline except those convicted of a felony charge or those who committed acts with the intent of causing bodily harm or serious property damage.

Cuthbertson and other labor union leaders expressed hope the newspaper operations will rapidly return to normal. ``We will do whatever we can to assure the community that the labor unions are once again working together with the companies to assure a healthy financial future for two newspapers in San Francisco,'' he said.

CONTACT: Conference of Newspaper Unions, AFL-CIO, San Francisco

Steve Chin, 415/421-6833 or 415/406-0166 (pager)
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Nov 12, 1994
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