By: Mark Fitzgerald
Contract negotiations between union employees at St. Louis Post-Dispatch and parent company Lee Enterprises are becoming more frequent — and more heated, according to the St. Louis Newspaper Guild.
“In the last week, the company has turned more acrimonious in its negotiations with the Guild,” the union said in a memo to members. “The company continues to demand a 15% wage cut in the first year of the contract, followed by a 5% cut the second year and 5% cut the third year. They still insist on eliminating retiree health care and they are demanding huge concessions on seniority.”
A federal mediator is sitting in on the talks, which are now occurring twice a week.
The Guild memo said the two sides have tentative agreements on roughly a dozen contract items — but union negotiators are concerned the company may move to declare an impasse soon.
“This belief is based on a number of thinly-veiled threats the company has issued across the bargaining table,” the union said without elaboration.
Lee Enterprises spokesperson Dan Hayes said the Davenport, Iowa-based company had no comment on the Guild statement.
If Lee does declare an impasse, the memo said, the Guild intends to file an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board that would argue the talks are “far from impasse.”
The Guild also said it would pursue a number of options to “force the company back to the table,” including “all forms of economic actions” against Lee.
“The Guild has laid the ground for a corporate campaign directed at the economic interests of Lee Enterprises,” the union said. “For strategic reasons we’d prefer not to reveal the details of the plan at this time.?
At the Post-Dispatch, the Guild represents editors, reporters, photographers, page designers, graphic artists, advertising and circulation employees and janitors.