Tribune Accepts That Sale of Stamford Paper Violated Union Contract

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Tribune Co. has accepted an arbitrator’s ruling that its sale of The Advocate of Stamford to Gannett Co. violated a provision of the union’s contract that requires the newspaper’s new owner to honor a labor contract with newsroom employees.

It was not clear Friday whether the sale would go forward.

“Gannett has told us directly they are not going to go through with this deal if it means taking the union contract,” said Maida Rosenstein, president of Local 2110 of the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America.
But Gannett spokeswoman Tara Connell said Friday the two companies are still in discussions about the sale. Telephone messages were left with a Tribune attorney and a company spokesman.

Tribune announced in March that it would sell The Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers, with a combined circulation of 39,000, for $73 million. They are the smallest of Tribune’s 11 daily newspapers, which include The Hartford Courant, the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and The (Baltimore) Sun.

Gannett made the newspapers’ 36 reporters and photographers reapply for their jobs and three were not offered positions, Rosenstein said. The union was willing to work with Gannett, but an offer by the company was well below current wages and benefits, she said.

Arbitrator M. David Vaughn ordered Tribune not to complete a sale of the Advocate that excludes the collective bargaining agreement, according to legal papers filed by the union. Tribune sought a clarification of the ruling.

Tribune and the union filed court papers Thursday saying they had reached an agreement confirming the arbitrator’s ruling and the clarification, which upheld the initial decision.

“We wanted the court to confirm the arbitration award so that the award had the authority of a court order and we’ve achieved that,” said Henry Murray, an attorney for the union.

The sale would add to Gannett’s stable of 90 U.S. dailies, which include USA Today.

Real-estate investor Sam Zell is buying Tribune Co. in a complex deal valued at about $8.2 billion.

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