A federal judge temporarily blocked Tribune Co.’s sale of a southwestern Connecticut newspaper to Gannett Co. Wednesday, citing pending arbitration proceedings with unionized newsroom employees.
U.S. District Alfred V. Covello issued a preliminary injunction of Gannett’s acquisition of The (Stamford) Advocate. The injunction expires April 6, the day by which Covello said an arbitrator should rule.
Local 2110 of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America has said that Gannett doesn’t plan to honor the contract between Tribune and the union’s 36 reporters and photographers.
Maida Rosenstein, president of Local 2110, said the union is seeking protections so that Gannett will honor the workers’ contract when it acquires the newspaper.
“Too often these corporations try to get out from under their labor agreements by simply using the structure of a sale to another corporation to rip up the union contract,” she told The Associated Press. “The judge saw that was not a fair outcome.”
Rosenstein said an arbitration hearing has been set for Friday. No location has been selected.
A message seeking comment was left Wednesday with Tribune and Gannett officials.
Tribune announced earlier this month that it would sell The Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers, with a combined circulation of 39,000, for $73 million.
They are the smallest of Tribune’s 11 daily newspapers, which include The Hartford Courant, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and The (Baltimore) Sun.
The sale is part of Tribune’s efforts to sell $500 million in assets. Other Tribune assets shed since last summer include television stations in Boston, Atlanta and Albany, N.Y.; 2.8 million shares of Time Warner common stock; and a former Los Angeles Times printing facility.
Chicago-based Tribune is the second-biggest U.S. newspaper publisher by circulation behind McLean, Va.-based Gannett.
Tribune acquired The Advocate and Greenwich Time in June 2000, as part of its acquisition of The Times Mirror Company. Once finalized, the sale will add to Gannett’s stable of 90 U.S. dailies, which include USA Today.
Shares of Tribune closed up 3 cents at $31.13 Wednesday.