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Detroit newspapers - five unions.

Detroit newspapers--five unions

After intermittent contract talks that began late November, five unions, representing about 3,000 workers, ratified 2 1/2-year accords with the Detroit Newspaper Agency, which bargains for The Detroit News and The Detroit Free Press. Negotiations began as a result of a recent Supreme Court ruling affirming a lower court's decision upholding a "joint operations agreement" between the two newspapers. The previous contracts, negotiated last June as 1-year interim settlements, were scheduled to expire May 1, 1990, or when the Supreme Court ruled on the joint operations agreement, whichever was earlier.

The unions involved in the new contracts are the Teamsters Local 372, representing some 1,300-1,450 drivers, handlers, and circulation managers; The Newspaper Guild Local 22, representing about 800-900 editorial workers; Mailers Union Local 2040, representing 360 full-time and 150 part-time mailers; Typographical Union Local 18, representing about 290 printers; and Graphic Communications Local 289, representing 37 photoengravers. (Employment numbers are sketchy, particularly because of a representation dispute between The Guild and Teamsters over the newspapers' inside circulation workers.)

The agreements reportedly provide for an $80 increase in weekly wages over the term; a bonus equivalent to 2-weeks' salary, paid upon ratification; and a $5 a week increase in optional benefits in 1990.

The News and the Free Press are owned by the two largest newspaper chains in the United States, Gannet Newspaper Inc. and Knight-Ridder Inc., respectively. After experiencing revenue losses for a number of years, the two newspapers entered into the joint operations agreement, in which their business and production departments would merge, but the editorial functions would remain separate. (The Detroit Newspaper Agency was formed to run the merged operations.) The joint operation was expected to result in the loss of almost 450 jobs through attrition and layoffs.

The merger, the largest of its type ever proposed in the industry, was approved by the Justice Department in August 1988, but was postponed for almost 16 months until the Supreme Court ruled that the merger did not violate the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970. Knight-Ridder, citing a loss of almost $18 million in 1988, had threatened to shutdown or sell The Free Press if the joint operations agreement was not implemented.

The five unions involved in the current settlements were among the seven unions at the two newspapers that had bargained as two coalitions in negotiating the 1-year interim pacts. Two locals of the Graphic Communications Union (Locals 13N and 289), The Newspaper Guild, and the Typographical Union bargained jointly as the Council of Newspaper Unions; while the Teamsters, Mailers, and Service Employees negotiated as a group. In the interim contract talks, the Council of Newspaper Unions had requested weekly wage increases of $150 over the term of the contract, plus a 6-week bonus when the joint operations agreement was implemented. The Teamsterled group had proposed a $200 weekly wage increase and a $1,700 lump-sum payment.

The newspapers' counter proposal was interim 1-year agreements providing for a $22 per week wage raise, retroactive to May 1989, if the unions ratified the settlement by June 8, 1989.

All the unions involved in the negotiations eventually accepted the counter proposal. The unions' members had not had a wage increase since 1986.
COPYRIGHT 1990 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations
Author:Cimini, Michael H.
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Mar 1, 1990
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