By: Joe Strupp
Guild workers at the York (Pa.) Daily Record and Sunday News launched a byline strike Thursday, claiming the protest is necessary after a year of contract talks that have not produced a new union agreement.
Carrie Biggs-Adams, executive secretary for the Newspaper Guild in Washington, D.C., and a negotiator in the York bargaining, said members of the 53-person guild unit began withholding bylines today. She said the strike would continue until at least July 26, when the next bargaining session is set.
“They are asking to withhold bylines under the contract,” Biggs-Adams said. “I think it should start to appear tomorrow and by Sunday’s paper it should be pretty effective.” Adds Michele Canty, president of the local unit, “we hope the byline strike will alert the public to this company’s unacceptable actions at the bargaining table. We want our readers to ask questions about what’s going on with this company and how it treats its workers.”
The Daily Record and Sunday News are both owned by MediaNews group. They compete with the York Dispatch, which is owned by the Buckner Family, is under a different guild agreement set to expire in October, and is not participating in the strike.
The byline strike is the latest in a string of incidents related to Daily Record contract talks that began July 18, 2005. Those include guild accusations that management has failed to bargain in good faith, which prompted a National Labor Relations Board review and complaint issued earlier this year. A hearing before an NLRB administrative law judge is set for October.
The union, along with community supporters, also has petitioned the U.S. Attorney General to revoke the antitrust immunity that had been granted for the York newspapers’ Joint Operating Agreement, citing evidence that MediaNews Group had hidden the fact that it is the sole owner and publisher of both newspapers.
“We hope it will get the company’s attention, [MediaNews Group CEO] Dean Singleton’s attention, and the community’s attention,” Biggs-Adams said of the byline strike. “They haven’t been bargaining in good faith, the NLRB has told them that, and it is time to change their behavior.”
Biggs-Adams said some reporters had been told today that their bylines may never return if they engage in the strike. “That is what we are hearing,” she said.
Daily Record Publisher Fred Uffelman could not be reached for comment Thursday. Editor James McClure was out of town and Managing Editor Randy Parker did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
Biggs-Adams noted that negotiators for the Daily Record had recently cancelled two bargaining sessions, set for July 27 and Aug. 9, but have kept two others on July 26 and Aug. 10. She said the newspaper has offered a three-year contract with 2% raises annually, no retroactive pay to the end of the last contract (September 2005), and a reduction in mileage reimbursements.
Guild leaders are seeking a three-year deal with a 5% annual pay increase. Biggs-Adams said the paper also is trying to implement newsroom restrictions, including one barring vulgar language. A provision that would have barred workers from “disparagement of the company” had been proposed by the paper last year but was dropped following guild complaints.
The contract talks are the first such negotiations since the Daily Record and Dispatch effectively swapped owners two years ago. Prior to May 2004, MediaNews owned the afternoon Dispatch and the Buckner family ran the Daily Record.