Thursday, April 26, 2018

Chicago’s ugly brawl for 2018 may well be within the Tribune ranks itself

Chicago Tribune news people have been speaking out in recent weeks about how they want to organize themselves into a union and have bragged about how they have about 85 percent of their staff in support of the idea.
No longer the 'World's Greatest Newspaper,' and no longer just 2 cents. Will it remain without labor unions
But it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that the newspaper’s management on Wednesday responded with the equivalent of, “I don’t care!”

THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE Guild received a formal response saying that the 85 percent of people signing union cards indicating their support for becoming an official union isn’t enough to sway them.

“Not enough information” was what management said, adding they’re more than willing to follow the procedures established by the National Labor Relations Board – by which a formal election will need to be held at some point later this year.

If a majority of reporter-types remain in support of the idea of becoming a chapter of the NewsGuild – Communications Workers of America, then perhaps there will be an officially-recognized union. But not one bloody moment before!

No such election has yet been scheduled, although I would expect it could happen sometime in late summer – or perhaps during Autumn. Round about the time the Chicago Bears start stinking up Soldier Field again with their awful play, we could see this issue resolved.

IN THE WEEKS and months until then, we’re going to see a whole lot of hostile rhetoric. A whole lot of reporter-types, including some of the most honored and award-winning in the newsgathering business, are going to be told publicly by management how replaceable they all are.

How in this particular era of the news business they ought to feel thankful to be employed by anybody who allows them to report the news for a living, and how the last thing they ought to be doing is trying to undermine the business interests of their employer.

Now I’m sure some people are going to want to think I’m exaggerating the situation. Particularly if they’re the types of people who are inclined to believe there’s a touch of truth in the over-the-top statements I wrote in the past couple of paragraphs.
Tribune soon to leave their historic tower
But I have my memories of back when I got out of college and started out in the news business.

MY FIRST PAYING reporter gig (I was an unpaid intern at a few places previously) was at the now-defunct Star Newspapers of Chicago Heights. By and large, I have pleasant memories of the eight months I was there and of some of the people I met.

But when I got there in June of 1987, the newspaper was in the midst of trying to establish itself as a local of the Chicago Newspaper Guild. A process that managed to split the staff into factions until the ultimate culmination in late October that year of an election.

One that I remember being a poll watcher for the union interests, and one in which I still remember the union interests lost by four votes. Not as close as a couple of years later when the old Southtown Economist newspaper tried to unionize and wound up with an evenly-split vote – a result that went in favor of management and was a loss.

Personally, I always thought the best jobs I had were at union-organized newsrooms. Mostly because it established set rules for dealing with various situations – rather than letting them be determined by what could appear to be the whims of management.
News business has changed much throughout the years

BUT TRYING TO establish a union shop in a newsroom is not something I ever would want to repeat in my work life. Particularly the letters me and my colleagues would receive from the New York attorneys retained by the newspaper to intimidate us into thinking we were being recklessly irresponsible in even contemplating making demands of the newspaper.

All or this is likely to occur at the Tribune – particularly since the one-time World’s Greatest Newspaper has such a history of being intensely anti-organized labor. Col. McCormick of the paper’s past (and whose distant relations have recently purchased an interest in the newspaper’s ownership) would boast about how he’d pay his reporters well (by newspaper standards) so as to make them think union representation wasn’t necessary.

Those supporting the unionization effort (including some reporters I know personally) say that recent years have brought about changes in circumstance that make the old logic inapplicable. They’re going to feel the gut check when they learn management is willing to openly demean them in order to keep the status quo in place.

Because I certainly can’t see any newspaper supportive of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s own anti-union efforts for state government willing to allow the “beast” of organized labor to soil the new offices they’re planning on moving into this summer.


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