NEWSPAPER GUILD MEMBERS at the Chicago Sun-Times overwhelmingly ratified a new three-year contract Nov. 15 after last-minute negotiating snags at the sister Pioneer Press weekly newspapers were resolved.
Union newsroom workers at the Sun-Times approved the contract 122 to 12. The Guild represents 265 newsroom employees at the paper.
That ratification came a day after 225 Pioneer Press editorial and production workers, represented by two Guild units in an open shop situation, approved new contracts. Previous contracts with the two units had expired 17 months earlier. The production unit had been working under posted condition.
Both Pioneer Press and the Sun-Times are owned by American Publishing Co., a unit of Conrad Black's Hollinger Inc., and the three Guild units had pursued a "cooperative bargaining" strategy since September, when the Sun-Times contract expired.
While Sun-Times members reached agreement Nov. 7, snags in the Pioneer Press talks led Guild officials there to accuse the company of reneging on some agreed upon provisions. Until the Pioneer ratification the night before the Sun-Times vote, there was a possibility the Sun-Times ratification would be delayed ? with uncertain consequences.
As reported, the Sun-Times agreement provides for 9% in wage increases over three years. Top minimum for a reporter was $975 a week under the expired contract.
Pioneer Press unionized editorial employees approved their new contract 30-12 after a divided bargaining team recommended adoption.
The new pact runs until May 1998 and uses a complicated wage increase system that is roughly the equivalent of annual increases of 2.35% dating 17 months back to the old contract, said Mike Issacs, a bargaining team member. There are no retroactive raises in the contract.
Top minimum will increase immediately from $530 a week to $556.93. Top minimum for the final period of the pact, beginning Dec. 1, 1997, will be $614.89, Issacs said.
"Very few people, if anybody, was happy with the contract," Issacs said. "I can tell you personally I was one of the [bargaining team members] who voted to reject it. Collectively, though, we felt it is better to accept this and live to fight another day."
By: Mark Fitzgerald Chicago Sun-Times Guild ratifies pact p. 8