UPDATE: NLRB Finds Lockouts At Toledo ‘Blade’ Illegal

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By: Joe Strupp

The four-month lockout of five unions at The Blade of Toledo has been ruled illegal by the National Labor Relations Board, according to a NLRB official.

“We found that the lockout was unlawful,” Allen Binstock, a NLRB supervising attorney in the agency’s Cleveland office, told E&P Thursday. “If they are not interested in settling the issue, we would issue a formal complaint tomorrow.”

Binstock said he had been in contact with the Blade since the findings were released late last week, but no settlement had been reached to resolve the issue.

Blade officials did not immediately return calls for comment on Thursday, but a Blade spokesman told the Toledo Free Press that the daily would likely challenge the finding, made public late last week.

The Blade locked out about 200 unionized employees in late August after failing to reach agreement on new contracts with the bargaining units, whose last deals expired in March. The Newspaper Guild, the largest of the paper’s eight unions, has also been without a contract, but remains on the job.

Binstock said the lockout was determined to be unlawful because it followed previous complaints of unfair labor practices by the newspaper.

“You are allowed to lockout employees, but you have to do it in the right way,” he told E&P. “You have to come to the lockout with clean hands, without having committed any prior unfair labor practices.” Binstock said the Blade had previously been charged with bad faith bargaining.

A Blade report stated that management can “either end the lockout and resume serious contract negotiations or the agency will issue a formal written complaint.” If the paper challenges the ruling, a hearing before an administrative law judge would be held.

Blade management has said it needs a variety of concessions, including workplace rule changes and salary cuts in order to stem growing losses it claims are mounting. The paper already convinced guild workers to pay more for health benefits in October.

The paper has hired temporary workers to replace the locked-out employees. One union, which represents electricians, has reached a new contract agreement. No contract talks with other bargaining units have been held in more than a month, the paper reported.

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