Stringers unionize in Philadelphia suburbs p.

By: George Garneau Inquirer's suburban correspondents approve Guild representation sp.

ENDING A SIX-YEAR battle for employee status, the Philadelphia Inquirer's suburban correspondents have won union representation.
They voted 107-37 Jan. 13 to be represented by the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia Local 10.
The new bargaining unit ? separate from the Guild's 1,200 other members at Knight-Ridder Inc.'s Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. ? represents 175 part- and full-time nonstaff correspondents, many of whom work 32 hours a week covering regular suburban beats but receive less than half the wages and benefits of staff reporters.
"It's a win for part-time employees who are being screwed by corporations," Local 10 president Kitty Caparella said.
"These people were just ready to be represented by a union," Guild organizer Eric Geist said. "They want to be treated like other employees and want to have a say in working conditions."
The Inquirer, which had refused the union's requests to represent the correspondents, said it will negotiate with the new unit.
In the meantime, company spokes-man Charles Fancher said, correspondents will work under existing terms.
Inquirer publisher Robert Hall anticipated that union representation would lead to higher costs, forcing the paper to reconsider plans to expand suburban coverage by increasing the frequency of its thrice-weekly zoned sections to daily.
Included in the unit are a dozen full-timers who get $520 a week plus paid vacations and health insurance. Fifty more work 32 hours a week for $452. The rest are paid by the story or photo assignment. Many work under two-year contracts.
The paper does not withhold payroll taxes, nor does it pay Social Security, unemployment or workers compensation. Part-timers pay 40% of the cost of a health insurance plan inferior to that of other employees.
"We felt like we never existed in the Inquirer," said Tammy McGinley, a photographer in the unit.
McGinley, 29, was on the job less than two years when she voted against the union in 1988. But in 1990, she helped restart the organization effort because "after awhile, the mythology of a byline in the Inquirer wears off and you worry about health care and unemployment."
She said she was glad the drive was over but knows that getting a contract will take a lot of work.
"It was never an issue of denying employment," Fancher said. He said the paper would have preferred to continue the "mutually beneficial" ar-rangement in which inexperienced journalists gain "high-quality entry-level experience."
The conflict dates to 1988, when a group of correspondents pooled their money to start an independent union but lost the representation vote. The paper later settled Labor Department charges of failing to pay overtime.
Union organizers said this was only the second time the Guild had organized a group of reporters who had been treated as stringers, or independent contractors. The first time was in Scranton, Pa., in 1986, said Dave Baum, a Guild service representative.
?( A piece of organizing literature used by the Newspaper Guild to persuade correspondents to vote for representation) [Photo and Caption]


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

Scroll the Latest Job Opportunities From The Media Job Board