Newspaper Guild Unsurprised by Decertification at ‘Morning Call’

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By: Joe Strupp

Newspaper Guild President Linda Foley is not surprised that the union’s local at The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., no longer exists, citing a lack of support for the bargaining unit over the years. She’s also in no great hurry to try to revive it.

“If the workers decide to reorganize, we can come back,” Foley said during a phone interview following the Guild’s decision to withdraw from the 131,000-circulation paper earlier this week. “We’ve never had much membership there or activity there.”

Foley’s comments followed the release of a memo on Tuesday from Morning Call editor Ardith Hilliard, which informed staff that the Guild Local 38049 “no longer has an interest in representing the newsroom employees,” the paper reported. Hilliard did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The pullout affects about 120 newsroom employees, according to the paper, including reporters, copy editors, librarians, artists, and other editorial workers. The union withdrawal followed a Nov. 8 petition filed with the National Labor Relations Board by an undisclosed number of union members seeking to decertify the local. Guild officials apparently left town in advance of a likely decertification vote.

“The membership has been dwindling for years and it seems that they decided it would be best to leave,” Foley said. “It is difficult to try and get a contract under those conditions.”

Former Guild Local President Ron Devlin, a Morning Call reporter, declined to comment Wednesday.

Morning Call Guild workers have been without a contract since Dec. 31, 2003, according to the paper. Contract talks began more than a year ago, officials said, but the Tribune Company paper and the guild local “remained far apart on several issues.”

Neither side would offer specifics, but confirmed that disputed issues include retroactive raises, night-side differentials, and management’s right to transfer Guild members between bureaus.

Another incentive for Guild employees to part ways with the union are the pay and working-condition improvements they will receive as non-union employees, including a 1.5% raise, the first in 18 months for many. The paper also will implement a new merit raise system, which Tribune has installed at other locations, most notably The Sun in Baltimore.

Guild workers who leave the union also will see more personal days and increased mileage reimbursements, the paper reported.

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