(The article below was originally posted to the Northern Worker blog at www.northernworker.wordpress.com)
by Adam Ritscher
On Thursday, February 25 about 80 members and supporters of the Lake Superior Newspaper Guild gathered in front of the Duluth News-Tribune offices for an informational picket. The Newspaper Guild represents the reporters and other workers at the DNT.
The union called the protest to draw attention to the dramatic number of layoffs that have been carried out by the paper. According to Peter Passi, the president of the union, a third of the newspaper staff has been let go since 2008. A number of these layoffs have come spitefully in the aftermath of the union refusing to accept concessions demanded by the owners of the paper. The effect of these layoffs has been devastating to the families involved, and it has dramatically affected the quality of the paper. And rest assured, that throughout this whole process the corporate big shots haven’t seen any kind of pay cut or concessions!
The protest ran from noon to about 1pm. It began with a rally in front of the main entrance of the newspaper’s offices. In addition to Peter Passi, the speakers were Catherine Conlan, formerly of the DNT, and Sharla Gardner and Dan Hartman from the Duluth City Council. The rally was followed by a walking picket in front of the DNT building. In addition to DNT workers, among the protesters were members of AFSCME Local 66, United Steelworkers Local 9460, Operating Engineers Local 49 and Socialist Action.
This picket comes on the heels of byline strike that DNT reporters held in mid-February. The Newspaper Guild is calling on its supporters to call, write or email Forum Communications, the Fargo based company that owns the News-Tribune, and urge them to end the layoffs and to work constructively with the union. You can reach the CEO of Forum at [email protected]
Below is an open letter that has been issued by the union.
OPEN LETTER FROM THE LAKE SUPERIOR NEWS GUILD
Mr. Bill Marcil:
We, the members of the Lake Superior Newspaper, write this open letter to express our profound disappointment with continued cuts at the Duluth News Tribune.
Had Forum Communications Co. been willing to engage in negotiations with our union, we believe the latest round of layoffs could have been avoided.
Since 2008, Forum has cut staff at the Duluth News-Tribune by more than one-third.
Some of these staff reductions were an unavoidable result of the recession and a downturn in the newspaper industry. The bloodletting borne of necessity has been tough enough to endure. But recent layoffs have been even more disheartening.
Twice now, Forum has demanded concessions to a signed contract but has offered nothing in return to our members. In the absence of any assurances that jobs would be preserved, the Guild turned down the company’s concession requests. But employees and their union have repeatedly offered to work with Forum to provide savings the company seeks, so long as our sacrifices preserve jobs.
Forum has been unwilling to work with the Guild and has repeatedly eliminated jobs instead of negotiating less detrimental solutions.
When Forum asked us to take its latest unilateral concession package to our members for a vote, we did as requested and received a resounding answer. Nearly 80% of our voting members chose to reject the company’s request.
Yet, 98% of members voted in support of continued negotiations with Forum, in hopes of finding a mutually acceptable solution. Our membership indicated they were willing to provide the requested concessions and consider even more sacrifices if they had assurances that their actions would protect their colleague’s jobs.
But Forum would not come to the table and instead laid off still more people.
The company’s behavior displays disregard for your employees, their families and the community we serve. The staffing cuts Forum has made and continues to make in Duluth have weakened our newspaper, hurting both readers and advertisers.
In light of recent events, we have taken our case public and are hereby inviting community members to share their concerns about what is becoming of the newspaper. We hope you will listen to these voices and consider them as you make future decisions about staffing and resources at the Duluth News-Tribune.
Sincerely, The Membership of the Lake Superior Newspaper Guild
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