Tuesday, July 31, 2007

With News Corp. poised to wins control of DJ; Guild leader explains union's opposition **

Steve Yount, a news anchor/writer on The Wall Street Journal Radio Network, with more than 30 years experience in broadcast journalism and the elected president of the IAPE (Independent Association of Publishers' Employees), is currently involved in contract bargaining with Dow Jones & Company and has recently added almost 300 new members through organizing drives at the NJ locations of MarketWatch and the Dow Jones Newswires:

IAPE has been actively opposed to the proposed $5 billion News Corp bid for Dow Jones and has made that opposition clear in our public comments, our mobilization efforts and in private efforts to assemble alternatives to the bid.

Our opposition was the result of the clear consensus of the union board of directors (composed of representatives from every job classification and Dow Jones location across North America) that a News Corp takeover was not in the best interest of either the economic well-being of our members or the continued quality of the product our members produce.

Having a union to express an opinion, freed individual members from the ethical dilemma of taking a public stance on a story they might have been covering. It also gave the membership an opportunity to be a "player" in the struggle – an opportunity which never would have been available to individual employees.

As union president (a full time Dow Jones employee on leave for the duration of my elected term) I had the responsibility of being the public voice of the union: delivering our message in hundreds of news interviews, writing op-ed pieces and mobilizing the membership to underline IAPE's opposition.

As a union, we also had the resources of the Newspaper Guild and the CWA in our battle. We were given access to the services of Ownership Associates, a company specializing in employee-led ownership efforts. Together with OA, TNG and CWA, we had an opportunity to have a seat at the table in the serious talks over counter-offers and competing bids. Because IAPE existed and was fully supported by its parent unions, employees had a much greater opportunity to play a role in determining their own future.

Whatever your opinion might be on the merits of the IAPE position, there's no denying the fact that our members – our colleagues and coworkers – had a chance to make a difference. We had the opportunity to have a real voice in the debate.

In everything we do, IAPE reminds the membership that "This is Your Union." We take that very seriously. IAPE exists solely to defend and promote and defend the economic interests of the members: win more money, better benefits, stronger job protection and improved working conditions to the employees of Dow Jones & Company. We do that by being a true voice for the membership.
IAPE represents two thousand Dow Jones employees who report the news, sell the ads, maintain the technology, build circulation and perform the many other tasks that define this company. IAPE represents everyone from Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters to salespersons to building maintenance crews.

* Read Yount's statement on Romenesko
** WSJ – The deal has been approved by the boards of both companies. The two companies are expected to sign a merger agreement and issue statements in the next few hours. (posted 9:35pm EDT)
(end of post)

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Daily Press sports writer: GO Cubs!

Go Cubs! is a rallying cry for Tribune employees in Newport News, VA.

Not because the team is a half-game behind first-place Milwaukee in National League Central, but because a sale of the Tribune-owned Chicago Cubs for $1 billion could preserve some jobs in Dave Fairbank's "corner of the world".

Maybe save jobs from Hartford to Los Angeles and places in between, too. (end of post)

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Risky deal worries workers

But Zell isn't worried. His "perspective on the Tribune as a company and as an investment has not changed," said a party close to his camp, noting any doubts are the result of a rough credit market and the challenges facing the newspaper publishing industry.

Nonetheless speculation has it that because Tribune Co. profits tumbled in the 2Q, Zell's deal to take over and save the company may be at risk.

suntimes.com reports that lenders are growing increasingly leery of leveraged buyouts. "Bear Stearns analyst Alexia Quadrani warned that if Tribune Co. misses third-quarter forecasts as it did last quarter, which she called 'a real possibility,' the heavily-leveraged Zell deal might 'blow up'."

Okay, so Zell isn't worried, but some employees sure are. They just want it done. Maybe Zell only cares about the bottom line, but just maybe he'll put people in place that will do a better job of making the company "profitable, and as a result, benefit the employees" but not at the continued expense of its talented workers and quality newspapers they produce.

There's been a lot of talk out there recently about the Deal, the fluctuating share price, quarterly losses and some philosophical mumbo-jumbo about a plan called "Transforming Tribune" — a job, employees are reminded, that rests on everyone's shoulders — not to mention their personal financial futures! What about how employees feel or what they think about the current uncertainty surrounding the Deal's completion – or it's failure?

We're listening to them.

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Activism strengthens employee rights and securities

As a more than 20-year member of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, I know that the Guild is perhaps the single-most important thread keeping the seams of job security together for employees at many news organizations, including the Washington Post. It is because of the continued commitment of the Guild that Post employees have not suffered the large-scale layoffs and upheaval of some other news organizations and have successfully defended their rights – some very publicly – during a time when the paper has systemically downsized while piling on additional duties, with little or no additional pay. On several occasions, direct involvement by the Guild made the difference between employees maintaining or losing their jobs and benefits. I know that the working environment at the paper would be even more vexing and inhibiting without the security and backing of the Guild. It is imperative that everyone play an active, vigilant part in the Guild to ensure employee rights and securities remain strong.

Stephen A. King
former WP shop steward

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Tribune gained a bit while other newspaper stocks sink in wake of Wall Street plunge

Publicly traded newspaper companies fell sharply Thursday along with a sinking market that took more than 300 points off the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

One exception to the sell-off was Tribune Co. (NYSE:TRB), which gained 4 cents, or 0.14%, to close at $28.24. Investors apparently are sticking with the stock on the company's assurances that it has the financing commitments to close its going-private deal with Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell. The price, though, remains well below the $34 per share price of the two-stage transaction. Editor & Publisher
(end of post)

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Challenges for employees at LAT and WSJ are the same, but with one very big difference

The following is from the latest edition of "Media Matters", the members' newsletter of the union representing Dow Jones journalists:

The challenges we face at Dow Jones, whether it's the fight for a quality contract or the battle against a Rupert Murdoch buyout, are well-known — as are the efforts IAPE [The Newspaper Guild-CWA Local 1096] is making to meet those challenges. But employees at the Los Angeles Times are going through seismic changes without a union.

However, there are people at the Times that believe the time is right for The Newspaper Guild. And you can help by contacting people you know who work for the Times and telling them the benefits of having an organization like IAPE to represent employees against what management thinks are the best for employees.

If you were working for the Los Angeles Times today, you would know that it is being converted to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) — which gives no real voice to employees; you would have seen a number of your co-workers take a buyout, either by choice or with a push from the company; and a company that behaves as if it envisions taking a great and respected national paper and turning it into a regional paper.

In this age of downsizing newsrooms and increasing work loads, there is concern about how a union can help. We have a sense of what it would be like without a union just by the positions Dow Jones takes at the bargaining table. If The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Washington Post were not unionized, our jobs and benefits would be a lot less appealing. A union at the Los Angeles Times would be a benefit to [us], too.

Prospective members at the Times need to understand why joining the Guild is better for their life and their family — and why a union composed and led by journalists is better for their newspaper.
(end of post)

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Tribune profit fell 58%* in 2Q

* Later reports have it at 59%

Editor & Publisher— In what is supposed to be one of its last quarterly reports before going private, Tribune Co. said Wednesday its profits plummeted 58% in the second quarter compared to last year's period.

Tribune said its earnings after paying preferred dividends were $36.3 million, or 18 cents per share, compared to $85.7 million, or 28 cents per share, in the second quarter of 2006. Full story
(end of post)

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

All-important FCC waivers may not be considered until 4Q

Dow Jones' Marketwatch reported late today that Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin said Tuesday he hopes that the agency will determine whether the Tribune Co.'s sale to real estate magnate Sam Zell can proceed in the fourth quarter of the year.

Current rules don't allow one company to control TV stations and newspapers in the same market.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

Tribune sale at issue as newspaper woes mount

The Zell Deal is facing trouble according to some Wall Street experts who wonder if the deal could fall apart in the middle of the industry's accelerating decline.

If the deal gets done, Tribune's $13 billion debt load will be carried mostly by the employee stock ownership plan. In a just-released AP story:

Tribune, which reports second-quarter results on Wednesday, already has borrowed $7 billion to finance the first step of the transaction and buy back shares but had to commit to repaying $1.5 billion of it in two years in order to secure the loan. Once the deal wins approval from shareholders and federal regulators -- far from guaranteed -- it must borrow an additional $4.2 billion to buy all remaining shares not owned by the ESOP.
Tribune says it's financing commitments are secure and it is comfortable with the terms of the current financing arrangement.
But employees of the struggling dailies, in particular, have cause for more worry after enduring a turbulent period of cutbacks and change as advertising revenue slumped and readers migrate to the Internet.

"Everyone is concerned," said Michael Hill, a reporter for the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun and unit chair of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. "We're very worried that the debt payment this new deal requires means that they're going to keep cutting to try to make those numbers."
Employees are asking: what happens if the merger isn't completed?
"Tribune would remain a public company, with the ESOP and Sam Zell continuing as shareholders of the company," the company said in a written Q&A recently. "Tribune still will have returned a substantial amount of capital to shareholders. We would expect our board to consist of the same directors we have today, including Zell."
Yeah, but will employees get their 401(k) match back?

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Tribune receives reader complaints regarding P1 ads

Unhappy readers are registering their objections on Tribune's corporate decision to start running advertising on Page One of it's largest dailies. "An anonymous caller to the city news desk said something similar, 'I buy the paper for news, and that's what I want.' "

We hear there's a whole lot of Tribune journalists unhappy about the decision too.

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DJ newscaster: Don't sell my company to Murdoch *

WSJ Radio Network newscaster Steve Yount explains why a sale to News Corp is not just bad for journalism, bad for readers, bad for advertisers, it's also bad for long-term shareholders, especially the Bancrofts.

Of course, there's more at stake than the personal fortunes of the Murdoch family and the Bancroft family, which for a century has controlled Dow Jones. I'm a newscaster for the Wall Street Journal Radio Network and the president of the union local that represents 2,000 Dow Jones employees, including its rank-and-file journalists throughout North America. I believe our members' interests are best served by adherence to the principle of editorial independence within a company whose only mission is reporting the news. As journalists and union members we see no upside in reducing Dow Jones to a tiny appendage of a global conglomerate with financial, political and regulatory interests alien to what we do.
In promoting the Wall Street Journal and its other publications, Dow Jones tells readers they can rely on the expertise of reporters and editors who know business better than anybody. So when we say the takeover of Dow Jones is a bum deal, one being rushed to signature for all the wrong reasons, we hope our most faithful readers, the Bancrofts, will listen.
* FROM REUTERS @ 1:20pm EDT: Bancrofts to make an announcement today on Murdoch offer. "There will be a short announcement later today," Michael Elefante told Reuters.
(end of post)

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Credit-default swaps show Tribune debt has 49% default risk

Tribune Co. has an almost 50-50 chance of missing interest payments on some of the $13 billion in debt it will have after real estate investor Sam Zell buys the company ... Bloomberg
(end of post)

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Worried WSJ staff polish up résumés while awaiting family's decision on sale * * *

It's been a "wrenching time" for Dow Jones employees since Murdoch made his offer 11 weeks ago.

Richard Pérez-Péna wrote in today's New York Times that the possible takeover by News Corp. has placed an unusual strain on the company and the employees.

“There’s a real culture of passion for the truth, for shining lights in dark places and making the mysterious understood,” said a reporter, one of dozens of people interviewed at The Journal and Dow Jones, nearly all of whom asked for anonymity, fearing a backlash from the current regime or the next one. “The overwhelming view here is that under Murdoch, that gets compromised from Day One, and that idea is devastating, heartbreaking, to people.”
Union-represented DJ staffers made it clear to their executive board that the union needed to not only oppose the News Corp bid, but to be an active player in the effort to encourage alternatives. The union remains hopeful the family will decide to maintain the independence of Dow Jones and continue the Bancroft Family stewardship.
Many people at Dow Jones continue to hold out hope for another bidder. So far, none has emerged. “I guess we’re back where we started, with our hopes in the Bancrofts,” said E. S. [Jim] Browning, a reporter who covers the stock market and is the head of the union’s bargaining committee. “I think they understand that if Murdoch prevails, it’s the end of The Journal as we know it.”

As the chances of an alternative have appeared to wane, more reporters and editors have polished their résumés and approached rival publications about jobs. Some have even talked of starting their own business news Web site.
*ALSO: DJ staff aren't the only ones worried. A non-member DJ board member who abstained from the vote Tuesday night resigned today because he too is "very worried that Dow Jones unique journalistic values will long-term strongly suffer after the proposed sale."

**MURDOCH ALTERNATIVE OFFERS NEW PLAN: In a last-minute appeal to turn down Rupert Murdoch's $60-a-share, $5 billion bid for Dow Jones & Co. My Space founder Brad Greenspan proposed in an open letter late Friday a plan he said could drive stock in The Wall Street Journal publisher to more than $100 per share.

(end of post - maybe)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Tribune deal a 'huge catastophe'

Jim Cramer at TheStreet.com thinks we should feel terrible about "what's about to happen to Tribune employees". LAObserved quotes Cramer here. (We'd have a direct link, but Cramer's column requires registration.)

If the deal goes through, the debt burden is almost unimaginable. And if the deal doesn't go through, well, what then?

Workers want to know what comes next if the deal falls apart. We're asking around because we know it matters to a whole lot of Tribune employees who care about the company to which they've devoted their loyalty, talent and time.

Stay tuned.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Agreement in principle reached: DJ board to vote tonight vote ok'd, family to meet Thursday Monday*

News Corp. reached a tentative agreement to buy Dow Jones at its original $5 billion offer price. The deal will be put to the full Dow Jones board Tuesday evening for its approval. But the deal still faces its biggest hurdle – getting approval from the Bancroft family, which controls 64% of Dow Jones's voting stock. WSJ

*UPDATE: The Dow Jones board approved Murdoch's bid last night. The deal goes to the Bancroft family who will meet Monday and will have several days to consider it before their vote.
(end of post)

ALSO: Dow Jones CEO memo tells employees they have a bright future

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Newspapers take P1 action to "reverse revenue declines" amidst nervousness over deal completion*

We'll see Tribune-wide P1 and section front ads soon as part of the revenue-generating initiative announced today by Tribune Publishing president Scott Smith. (LAT's Hiller made a similar announcement last week.)

He writes in his memo that he "made the decision to expand section front advertising, including on the front page, weighing the interests of both readers and advertisers in the context of our overall goals. Readers highly value display advertising in their newspapers."

Meanwhile, Tribune shares are trading significantly lower than the $34 offered in the Zell deal. Reuters reports "... as Tribune approaches the second stage of its deal, concerns have been raised about whether it will generate enough cash flow to meet a leverage test detailed in its deal agreement or if Zell will seek to renegotiate the terms."

Hope the ad sales reps can sell gazillions of dollars of sharp, classy but unobtrusive one-an-a-half inch ads "readers will highly value".

*UPDATE: Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times editors oppose Page One ads. "This would be a huge mistake that will penalize the reader," said LAT editor James O'Shea.

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How the LAT press workers bucked the paper's legacy

Former Los Angeles Times editor and columnist Rick Wartzman offers an informative piece on The American Prospect's website about the recent organizing success at LAT, including an historical perspective on the Chandlers' anti-union bias. Wartzman describes Labor's win as "remarkable historically and symbolically, capping L.A.'s decades-long transformation from a non-union city to one in which organized labor is an unusually potent force." Wartzman writes:

One of the primary reasons that the union prevailed (in the pressroom) at (the Times) was a feeling among the employees that they've been asked to work a lot harder without getting much in return; pay increases in recent years have been paltry at best. In this era of stagnating wages and deteriorating benefits -- amid big gains in productivity -- that's a set of circumstances hardly unique to the Times.
Recent extensive cuts to newsroom staff followed the loss of 400+ printing plant employees over the last seven years. As a result, those remaining have had to pick up the slack. "It essentially equates to the work doubling," said Ronnie Pineda, long-time Times employee and union supporter . "We've got to hang more plates. We've got to push more rolls."
The extra workload has not only increased the likelihood of injury, Pineda adds, it has come without much to show for it: Wages have crept up a mere 7.5 percent since 2000, while employees' out-of-pocket costs for medical insurance have climbed.
Coincidentally, increased workloads to compensate for a smaller staff, escalating costs for medical insurance that provide less benefit and a future retirement plan (ESOP) that is risky at best are just a few of the reasons non-union newsroom workers are talking with the Guild.

Wartzman: "It's no wonder that a new batch of research suggests workers across the United States are hungrier than ever for union representation, according to a recent Economic Policy Institute study."

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Friday, July 13, 2007

One of worst quarters ever disheartening news for soon-to-be employee owners

According to LAT publisher David Hiller the good news is the Zell/ESOP deal is half way to completion, but the bad news is LAT revenue and cash flow is so far down, the last quarter was one of the worst quarters ever.

Hiller announced in today's mid-year business update memo to his staff that by running P1 ads, revenues could be increased by "several million dollars". (Quarterly? yearly?) Hiller goes on to explain the ads will "help pay for the content we create for our readers, and for our investment in new growth opportunities."

Remember, one way or another we all impact our revenue business. Everybody who creates content for our readers and users, or manufactures or delivers, or sells to advertisers, handles customer service, or touches our customers in any of the millions of ways we do each day – all of us can and do have an impact.

As always, I am eager to hear your comments and suggestions. Transforming this great company for the future really rests on all our shoulders. It’s a cross-company effort and, more than ever, we need to pull together.
Wonder if he and other top-level Tribune execs are listening to employee comments and suggestions regarding the $8.2+ billion debt the Zell/ESOP deal (if completed) that will "rest" on their shoulders?

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Tribune says it hopes for FCC OK in 4Q

It's not breaking news or anything but Tribune said it will file a proxy later today for the second stage of its deal to go private ahead of the Aug. 21 shareholders meeting and "... that the most significant condition to closing the $8.2 billion deal, aside from getting shareholder approval, will be receiving approval from the FCC regarding the transfer of Tribune TV licenses and its request for waivers in cross-ownership markets." Reuters

Well, we know that. (Shareholder date corrected in a previous post's headline.)

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

National Labor Relations Board sides with union at The Washington Post

Membership has its advantages. Today's news of the NLRB's complaint charge against The Post for * failing to negotiate in good faith with the Guild over the extra work employees were "asked" to perform for its radio station, is illustrative of the advantage unionized employees have in seeking redress when their rights are violated.

The Board's complaint, scheduled to go before an administrative law judge in September, also charges that employees were not fairly compensated for the work they contributed to Washington Post Radio. In some cases, employees received no compensation at all for performing additional work.

The NLRB is seeking back pay with interest for employees who allegedly were not compensated fairly.

The decision is a significant legal victory for the members of the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild because it reinforces the principle that The Post must deal with the Guild to set minimums for all employees — minimums that most individual employees wouldn't have the clout to negotiate on their own.

"Under established federal labor law, the Guild is the bargaining agent for Post newsroom and commercial employees and is entitled to a meaningful role in determining the employees' terms of employment," Robert E. Paul, attorney for the Washington-Baltimore Guild, said in a statement. "In these cases, the Post unfortunately adopted an unlawful and misguided strategy to carve the Guild out of that equation, one that excluded the Guild from serving as a partner with the Post to fashion solutions in this changing landscape of journalism."

"This victory is a measure of the egregiousness of Post management's disregard for employee rights," said Rick Ehrmann, Guild representative for The Washington Post unit of the Guild.
The Newspaper Guild represents about 1,200 newsroom and commercial dept. employees at The Post. (end of post)

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Dow Jones board offered union-supported alternatives to a Murdoch takeover

Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle and Internet entrepreneur Brad Greenspan teamed up Tuesday in New York to offer Dow Jones board members alternative possibilities that could leave the Bancroft family in charge of the publisher of the Wall Street Journal and provide new money to invest.

From today's Los Angeles Times

"This is about sitting down and saying there is some real money on the table, let's explore the possibilities," said (Newspaper Guild local) President Steve Yount.

The plan could allow some members of the Bancroft family to cash out and others to maintain control of the newspaper they inherited. "If the Bancroft family wants to remain stewards of Dow Jones, then that is available," Yount said.


The union is attempting to capitalize on the unease that some of the 35 adult Bancrofts feel about selling to Murdoch the leading U.S. business publication, which trails only USA Today in daily circulation. Former employees have repeatedly accused Murdoch of using the news content in his papers to promote his business agenda and conservative political views.

The five-member Dow Jones committee has agreed with News Corp. on most of a plan designed to keep Murdoch at arm's length from the Journal's newsroom, but many reporters and editors remain skeptical.
Early last month the union reached out to Ron Burkle (among others) in hopes they could serve as partners in the union's effort to maintain the editorial independence of Dow Jones & Company and preserve the unquestioned journalistic integrity of all of its publications and products. (end of post)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'How would you like it if you could only get news from the Internet?'

In a Letter to the Editor at the Providence Journal, Brian Wilder of Cranston, Rhode Island writes that as newspapers across the country shrink, lay off staff or shut down, readers may be left only with the 'Net to get the news. He suggests that if newspapers are to survive, readers must do 2 things:

First, subscribe to at least one daily newspaper. It’s much cheaper than buying one every day and it helps ensure that our daily newspapers remain healthy.

And second, find ways, probably through the newspaper unions, to fight to protect our local papers from the culture of corporate takeover and profit squeezing.
Thanks, Brian! We're trying and with more people who think like you do, we may succeed.

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Possible job cuts a veiled threat to Dow Jones workers

Neither DJ execs nor Murdoch want anything to ruin his acquisition of Dow Jones — most certainly not a DJ newsroom staff united in its effort to find an alternative buyer.

The story in yesterday's NY Times reported "senior editors" and "a person close to Dow Jones management" had cautioned that jobs could be lost if the Murdoch bid for Dow Jones doesn't go through. That seemed to us like shaking a stick before offering a limp carrot: later in the story those same persons added "Some jobs might be eliminated even if the deal goes through ... though Mr. Murdoch has signaled that he would increase the staff over all."

Wait a minute. What's the real message here and who wanted it delivered?

DJ workers aren't naive. They've survived several rounds of staff reductions and they know full well that a Murdoch takeover could be followed with more cuts. Even without a sale, they know layoffs could happen. Tribune workers just endured a massive staff purge and there's speculation more staff cuts are planned sometime in advance of a sale that won't be finalized until the end of the year.

The only people making out on these deals are those at the top who have very powerful financial incentives to favor the sales and will do what ever it takes to make them happen.

Is it any wonder then that union employees armed with their collective power seek a worker-friendly buyer that is committed to the continued quality and integrity of Dow Jones and the future prosperity and security of the people who do the work?

*Note: Though this blog's primary focus is the Tribune Company, we believe news of the Dow Jones sale is relevant because it's unionized employees — in attempting to affect the outcome of the sale — exemplify the power of collective action.

(end of post)

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Monday, July 9, 2007

Guild hopeful layoffs can still be averted at SF Chronicle

The company didn't get enough takers for the buyout offered early last month. It's goal is to reduce the staff by 100: 80 union and 20 management types. Only 50 Guild members have accepted the buyout offer.

The Guild has suggested the company extend the buyout package offer to additional staff which the company has agreed to do, but if not enough are taken, layoffs are indeed possible.

Michael Cabanatuan, president of the Northern California Media Guild that represents Chronicle staff, comments on The East Bay Blog: "... the Guild is hopeful that layoffs can be averted and will work hard toward that end. Job reductions of the magnitude being carried out in the Chronicle newsroom are incredibly disspiriting not only for many of those who leave but for those who stay. The buyout process has been traumatic for many people but layoffs would devastate morale as well as the careers and lives of many fine journalists.

It's good that the unionized staff has negotiating power, especially at this difficult time.

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Sunday, July 8, 2007

*Updated: Dow Jones board to meet Monday with LA's Ron Burkle

According to Financial Times.com, they will meet to discuss Burkle's interest in buying the company.

Burkle's Yucaipa Company was recruited by the Guild to enter the sale process on behalf of its members at Dow Jones.

Could Brad Greenspan be far behind?

* Today's (7/9) NYT reported that if Murdoch's bid falls through, "declining advertising will mean significant cuts in The Journal’s newsroom staff, according to senior editors and a person close to Dow Jones management ..."

Some of these people say that if Mr. Murdoch’s offer had not put other considerations on hold, the news staff would have been trimmed already.

If Dow Jones remains independent, a reduction in the size of the news staff will probably begin within a few months, and will most likely take the form of buyouts rather than layoffs, these people said. Some jobs might be eliminated even if the deal goes through, they said, though Mr. Murdoch has signaled that he would increase the staff over all.
(end of post)

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Friday, July 6, 2007

Dow Jones Deal? Nope. Not yet, anyway.

"Exclusive: Rupert Murdoch buys Dow Jones, owners of the Wall Street Journal"

That's the red, all caps headline on The Business and over a story co-authored by a former Murdoch editor. The Business is a London online financial publication.

Dow Jones denies the deal is done. "A spokesman for the Bancroft family, which has a majority stake in Dow Jones, said there had been 'no change in the status of the discussions.' "

So maybe the DJ board has come up with a deal it likes, but the family will have to like it too.

Leaders at the Dow Jones union have a reasonable hope that the Bancroft family is not for sale. Alternatives may still be under consideration. Alternatives that could satisfy those Bancroft family members eager to sell and be done with it and other members who seek to ensure long-term survival of company and it's editorial integrity.

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LAT Pressmens' secret ballot election

We should have reported in our last post that employees in the LAT pressroom elected union representation (Teamsters) in a secret ballot vote in early January in spite of Corporate anti-union pressure.

Corporate has forced delays in meeting with the pressroom employees to start bargaining for a contract by gaming the system – the same system that is charged with protecting the WORKERS' rights.

Under the Employee Free Choice Act the employees and Corporate would have begun bargaining long ago. No contract could take place without a majority of voters approval. If the workers think it is in their interest, they will vote to accept. If not, they will reject it.

What can possibly be more democratic then letting a representative group of members negotiate with the owners?

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

The voting process on forming a union at work is not democratic — the Employee Free Choice Act is *

* Update 7/10: Rabbi Moshe ben Asher of Chatsworth, CA agrees with us. Read his response to McGough's "Unions labeled" column.

Sr. Editorial Writer Michael McGough for the Los Angeles Times had this to say about the Employee Free Choice Act. While his belief in a fair election process for employees exploring union organization is laudable, it fails to address the one big flaw in the system: the employer's ability to taint the process. If he doubts this, he should ask the very newsroom people he works with about unionizing the LA Times.

We would urge Mr. McGough to ask these questions of his coworkers:

1. Are you afraid that you would lose your job if you support a union?

2. Do you believe that you might suffer some retaliation which could take the form of a lesser beat or an unwelcome work schedule if you support a union?

3. Would you be willing to attend a group meeting held by The Newspaper Guild so you could understand better what having union representation means at the LAT? If not, why not?

You might want to ask these questions during break time or off company property, of course, because the employer can discipline employees for talking about forming a union during work if it affects the product.

The National Labor Relations Act is inadequate in its stated goal of protecting workers' rights. Employers violate those rights regularly and are rarely penalized. The EFCA would help to restore workers' rights under the NLRA by:

1.Establishing stronger penalties for violations of employee rights.

2.Providing mediation and arbitration to help ensure a first contract and thwart an employer's refusal to bargain in good faith.

3.Allowing employees to form unions by "majority sign-up" to help avoid anti-democratic employer coercion.

The EFCA does not eliminate the use of secret ballot elections. If employees request a secret ballot election, the National Labor Relations Board will conduct the secret ballot election.

A secret ballot election at the LAT today could very well garner a majority of the newsroom. But, the fear of losing one's job, being blacklisted in the business or punished for supporting a union is making it difficult to get Mr. McGough's co-workers to talk to each other about a union. How can the laws be changed fairly for someone who might get fired at the LAT? What could be the justice in that case?

In a democracy such as ours, employees should be allowed to decide whether or not they want to be represented by a union. The employer should play no role in this part of the process without the invitation of the employees.

We invite you to get in touch with us about having a union at the LAT. The experience would be worthwhile.

(end of post)

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Will union's alternative to Murdoch be more attractive to the Bancrofts?

Hard to say, but LAT's Joseph Menn reported today that Brad Greenspan "would be happy to join forces with Yucaipa Cos" for a crack at Dow Jones & Company.

Greenspan is hoping to present himself as a safer alternative for those members of the Bancroft family uncomfortable with Murdoch's history of close involvement in news operations.
Who is Brad Greenspan? He's the guy that co-founded the company that created MySpace.com in 2003 which was later acquired by — News Corp!
Greenspan, according to his interview with LAT, has offered to buy a quarter of DJ stock.
The Bancroft family, which controls Dow Jones, has yet to weigh in on the News Corp. plan but has said the company might be better off with another partner. Greenspan said his challenge was to convince Dow Jones and the Bancrofts that he was presenting a solid strategic alternative without a full merger. He met with bankers for the company and the family last week.
LA billionaire Ron Burkle's Yucaipa Companies of Los Angeles has been advising IAPE, the Newspaper Guild union at Dow Jones.

Earlier, Yucaipa was recruited by The Newspaper Guild to enter the sale process on behalf of its members to pursue a "worker friendly" purchase when Knight Ridder was up for sale in early 2006 and again when Tribune Company went out for bid later in the year.

Oh and by the way, such action is undertaken by the union only at the specific request of its members.

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Monday, July 2, 2007

Shareholders to vote Aug. 21

Tribune announced it will hold a special shareholders meeting August 21 in Chicago to vote on the proposal to take the company private. Shareholders of record July 12 will be eligible to vote. Details will be filed with the SEC later this month. If you still hold shares, you can cast your vote.

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Latest bloodletting* at San Jose Mercury News a call to action for remaining staff

*31 Laid Off at Mercury News; 15 Others Leaving (second item)

"We want to be partners in the growth of the Mercury News and mercurynews.com. We don’t want to be a part in the dismantling of a newspaper that has served Northern California for more than 150 years."

A group of Mercury News employees supported by the San Jose Newspaper Guild launched Save the Merc to raise awareness and garner community support in an effort to preserve the paper's quality journalism and civic commitment to the community.

They are urging their supporters to make mercurynews.com their home page, sign up for its email newsletters and tell SJMN where it's coverage is lacking.

This is a clear example of the benefit of being union. The union cannot dictate to the employer the size of the staff needed to publish it's papers, but union members can and do use their union's resources to enlist community support when the cuts go to the bone. An involved community certainly has the power to hold the company accountable for the service it provides. And with an almost skeletal workforce at SJMN, how will it be possible to properly serve the community?

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Quality people = quality paper

I sell classified advertising for The Wall Street Journal. I’ve been with the Journal for almost 22 years and have sold almost every category. I've been involved in the union from the very beginning of my career. I have served several years as a steward, held a term as delegate to the CWA and TNG conferences, and am now serving as Location Director for the Dallas/Houston area. I've become more involved recently to help individuals in our facility with various issues that demand attention. Our Union gives us the ability to collectively share our concerns and needs and relates this information to our management. We have lots of obstacles to overcome and the Union is there to help with these situations on a daily basis. The Union supports each and every member and is very instrumental in negotiating our wages and commissions, saving our health benefits, improving our work environment, and resolving management issues. It is an invaluable asset to have as it keeps an open line of communication to our company. Quality people = Quality paper!!!"
Rita Graves
Ad sales

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Report: Transition period from print to online will be painful

For sure we know its been painful for hundreds of our coworkers who have lost jobs as a result of ad revenues tumbling in free-fall since late 2004, and made all the more painful because the same companies that are laying off valuable newsroom staff have reportedly paid out millions in salaries and bonuses to corporate top-level execs. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

A report on EditorandPublisher.com — "Goldman Sachs Issues Negative Note on State of the Industry" — is a grim take on the state of newspapers. Not so much for the online state.

"The research firm based the note on several factors including that newspapers clearly no longer dominate classifieds, that margins are under pressure, and that the transition period from print to online will be "painful" and "extended."

E&P reports "analysts estimate that transition will take as long as five years for online revenues to offset deteriorating print revenue." But that once the transition is made, analysts believe "newspaper publishers will re-emerge as very healthy and dominant players in the local media marketplace."

It will be the contributions in time and talent of good people like you, who weather through the "painful, extended" transition with newly developed skills and combined with solid journalistic values, that will ultimately enable the newspaper companies to re-emerge as very healthy and dominate players. And united, you stand a better chance at sharing in the long-awaited profits.

Worth noting: Goldman does not believe recent acquisition transactions (with the exception of News Corp.'s bid for Dow Jones) have been valuable for shareholders. "Our view continues to be that on a long-term basis operating fundamentals will always trump takeover/restructuring speculation," analysts wrote.

We're not analysts, but we suspect they're right.
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