By: Randy Dotinga
Labor Dispute Goes Into Third Year
In one of the Northwest’s most liberal towns, a labor dispute is
setting new records for creativity with everything from green
armbands to subversive Christmas carols.
The Register-Guard of Eugene, Ore., is now in its third
year of contract negotiations. The family-owned newspaper (with
73,994 weekday circulation) and its union are divided over
outsourcing and pay for about a third of the 155 covered
employees, said Eugene Newspaper Guild President Suzi
Prozanski. For about a year, employees have worn green on Tuesday
– payday – to protest the lack of progress in monthly
negotiations. Some employees recently turned to green armbands.
Last December, a group of locals rewrote the words to Christmas
carols and sang them at the Register-Guard office. The
lyrics from one song referred to the newspaper’s labor
consultant, Michael Zinser (who hails from Nashville, Tenn.) as
“Zinser, the Rednecked Mouthpiece.”
In late February, an estimated 500 friends and supporters of
union members temporarily canceled the newspaper to show support
in the community. “The point was not to hurt them financially but
show them support,” Prozanski told E&P. Recently, “friends
in the community” created a broadsheet full of anti-Register-
Guard stories and inserted it into news racks around the
city. The front page featured a banner hed, “Local Newspaper Gets
Greedy,” a drawing of the Grinch, and an Elizabeth Gurley-Flynn
byline. “I’m ambivalent about whether that was helpful or not,”
said Lance Robertson, an environmental reporter and chief union
negotiator. The Register-Guard offered a $2,500 reward for
information about the vandalism.
Randy Dotinga is a free-lancer based in San Diego.
Copyright 2001, Editor & Publisher.