Members of the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia voted overwhelmingly Thursday to authorize a strike against the city’s two biggest newspapers if such action becomes necessary.
An estimated 500 of the union’s 1,000 members who work for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News attended a Guild meeting where leaders talked about how little progress has been made toward a new contract.
The strike vote recorded only four “no” votes. The current contract expires at midnight Tuesday.
The bargaining has been “tough, to say the least,” said union leader Diane Mastrull.
She said the presence of a federal mediator, who joined the talks earlier this week, was “one bright spot” in negotiations.
The key issues are a proposal to freeze contributions to the Guild’s pension plan and take over control of the pension fund, and a demand that the company be able to lay off employees without regard to seniority.
Management spokesman Jay Devine said the company is “disappointed that the Guild leadership is the only union taking this action.”
Employees of the newspapers are represented by 12 labor unions. On Wednesday, Devine said four unions had already reached tentative agreements and the company hoped to reach agreements with the others before Tuesday.
The Guild issued this statement:
“Tonight, over 500 Guild members stood up and voted to authorize the Guild negotiating committee to call a strike, if necessary. Only four members voted against the motion at the meeting held at Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on Broad St.
“We are not on strike, nor has the Guild negotiating team called for one. But our members have enthusiastically shown they are willing to fight as one should a strike become unavoidable.
“After the overwhelmingly supportive vote, Philadelphia Unit Chair Diane Mastrull, the lead negotiator, said the Company will now be forced to come to the bargaining table with ‘serious intentions instead of candy bars.’ At an earlier bargaining meeting, Management wasted time trying on a pair of sunglasses, passing out candy bars, and giggling.”