‘Strib’ Drivers Authorize Strike if Contract Abrogated

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By: E&P Staff

Minneapolis Star Tribune Teamsters drivers have voted to authorize a strike if their contract is abrogated by a bankruptcy judge, Publisher Chris Harte said in a memo to employees Wednesday.

Harte said the newspaper is not asking “any greater sacrifice” from the drivers in Teamsters Local 638 than any other department at the paper.

“As we said in our attached letter to Fleet employees, we have preparations in place and would continue to operate if a strike were to occur,” Harte wrote. “And while the company would replace striking workers — at least temporarily and possibly permanently — in order to continue running its business for its other employees, advertisers and readers, we very much hope that it will not come to that.”

The memo was first reported by David Brauer on his Braublog, at MinnPost.com. Brauer reported that the Teamsters’ business agent declined to confirm the strike authorization vote, which Harte said was taken Tuesday night.

In the memo, Harte noted that the two sides are scheduled to go before the bankruptcy court for a hearing on June 9. He said “all key issues except pension-related issues have been agreed upon.” A bargaining session is scheduled for Thursday.

Harte explained the newspaper management’s position this way:

“The pension plan serving our Teamster drivers, administered by the Central States Pension Fund, is by far the most expensive and underfunded of the seven multi-employer pension plans that serve our unions. The company has proposed withdrawing from this plan to reduce expenses and future liabilities. The company likely cannot emerge successfully from bankruptcy if it faces the enormous withdrawal liability from, and ongoing escalating payments to, the Central States Plan. This is true for many reasons, including the fact that our lenders will likely not accept that risk.”

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