By: Joe Strupp
Scooby-Doo might not be known for his union support. But at the York (Pa.) Daily Record, Guild organizers were counting on the famed cartoon pooch and sleuth to help them win a new contract.
Or at least get some attention — and laughs — trying.
In one of the more colorful union protest ideas, the York Newspaper Guild, which represents some 65 members at the Daily Record, sought to march in the upcoming York Halloween Parade. The group’s entry was a take-off on the Scooby Doo cartoon, dubbed “Scooby Doo vs. the Union Buster.”
Hoping to ride in a van decorated like the cartoon’s “Mystery Machine,” guild leaders had planned to dress like Scooby, Shaggy, and the other characters and march in the parade on Oct. 29, said Tom Joyce, the local’s mobilization coordinator. “We were going to be chasing around a guy in a mask with a business suit and a sign that said, ‘Union Buster’,” Joyce told E&P. “It would be a repetitive skit. Periodically, we would catch him, pull off his mask, and reveal who he was.”
The “Union Buster” would turn out to be someone depicting William Dean Singleton, CEO and vice-chairman of MediaNews Group, the Daily Record’s owner. “He would say, ‘I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you meddling kids’,” Joyce said, referencing the line that ended most Scooby Doo episodes.
The guild leader said he contacted parade organizers weeks ago from the nearby YWCA of York, which sponsors the parade, to make sure the idea was acceptable before purchasing the $200 worth of costumes and decorations needed. “They are wary of entries that are too political,” Joyce said. “So I described the basics of what we intended to do and they said it would still be up to the parade committee, but it did not sound like it would be problematic.”
This week, however, Joyce said the guild received a letter indicating the idea had been rejected. “We were one of only three applicants out of what I understand to be more than 100 entries to be rejected,” Joyce said. “The YWCA was very courteous in their dealings and they said they would reconsider, but I found out today they had decided not to reverse the decision.”
The other two entries that were rejected were a local candidate running for Congress and an area pastor known for his anti-abortion protests, Joyce said.
Leslie Bentz, public relations director for YWCA of York, did not return calls seeking comment on why the rejection was done. The letter Joyce received said only that “members of the executive committee have rejected your application and therefore your entry has been denied.”
Joyce speculated that Daily Record Publisher Fred Uffelman, a member of the YWCA’s board of advisors, might have influenced the decision. “We can’t help but suspect that he played a part,” Joyce said. But Uffelman, who said he has not met with the board in months, declined any role in the matter. “I had no involvement whatsoever,” he said. “That is their decision.”
Singleton, reached at MediaNews Group corporate headquarters, said he had not heard about the situation and declined to comment.
The parade dispute is the latest in a long-running labor battle at the Daily Record, which has been negotiating with the guild for a new contract for more than a year. Just days ago, the two sides agreed to settle two unfair labor complaints issued against the paper earlier this year by the National Labor Relations Board. Those alleged that the paper had not bargained in good faith, had denied union organizers time-off for bargaining, and had unfairly blocked union activities.
While the newspaper admitted no wrongdoing and did not agree to pay any fines, the settlement included a return of staff writer bylines that had been withheld since July, the return of time-off for union negotiators who had been forced to take vacation and personal days to bargain, and a lifting of a ban on wearing clothing with guild-related logos.
The two sides also held their first bargaining session in weeks on Tuesday, which Joyce described as “going much better than in the past.”
As for the parade, Joyce said union members still planned to attend the event and distribute pro-union fliers. “We have the costumes,” he quipped. “We might as well use them.”