Guild workers demand fair deal from Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND – Over 100 members of the Newspaper Guild Local 1 held a brief rally and picketed the Plain Dealer Oct. 30 to protest an anti-union buyout offer in an ongoing downsizing of the city’s only daily.

Since 2005, union jobs at the paper have been reduced through buyouts from around 300 to 238. The paper, part of the giant Newhouse-family owned Advance Publications empire, now proposes to eliminate 38 more jobs by early December.

While previous buyouts have included health care as well as severance pay provisions for both management and union positions, this time health care is only being offered to management.

“It is unfair to penalize workers simply because they are members of a union,” Harlan Spector, chair of the local’s Plain Dealer unit told the rally.

This is particularly unfair, said Local 1 Executive Secretary Rollie Dreussi, since Plain Dealer President and Publisher Terry Egger admitted the paper is still making a profit.

If the buyout is not accepted, the jobs are to be eliminated through mandatory layoffs, the first in the paper’s 150-year history.

Under terms of the union’s contract workers would receive severance pay in a layoff, but no health coverage. But if they accept a buyout they “give up unemployment compensation and the right to potential rehire,” Dreussi said.

Veteran reporters were bitter about the fact that with downsizing going on throughout the industry there are no media jobs to go to and, especially in hard hit Northeastern Ohio, there are virtually no other jobs either.

“Why are they creating such a hardship for Guild members,” one reporter asked. “Health care for 38 workers is nothing for the Newhouse family. If they offered one year of health coverage, there would be no problem getting people to leave. We might have time to relocate or find another job.”

The ongoing crisis in the newspaper industry, brought about by the rise of the internet as well as the general economic downturn, is chronicled in the October issue of the Guild Reporter, the union’s monthly publication. The paper reported that in the past month alone layoffs have occurred at newspapers in St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Duluth and Lexington, Ky., as readership and advertising revenues continue to decline.