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News ::
Brattleboro Reformer workers fight for their union (english)
10 Jun 2003
The MediaNews Group, lead by its CEO William Dean Singleton, is busy attempting to smash a union drive at the Brattleboro Reformer (circulation 11,500), a daily newspaper it owns in Brattleboro, Vermont. But the workers are fighting back
MediaNews intent on smashing organizing drive but…
Reformer workers fight for their union

By Bryan G. Pfeifer

The MediaNews Group, lead by its CEO William Dean Singleton, is busy attempting to smash a union drive at the Brattleboro Reformer (circulation 11,500), a daily newspaper it owns in Brattleboro, Vermont.

But the workers are fighting back in this small town of 6,000 southeastern Vermont.

For years workers at the Reformer talked about forming a union based on numerous grievances but mostly focused on pay and benefits. Even before the Media News Corp. bought out the formerly “family-owned” Reformer in 2001, journalists and other news room workers made a pittance-about $20,000 a year despite seniority. At MediaNews’, only five of its 170 newspapers are unionized and the wages and benefits show the difference-average wages are double that of the non-unionized papers.

In mid-spring 2003, 41 Reformer news room staff decided by card vote to join PACE, the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union. After the regional office of the NLRB scheduled an election for June 26, a campaign of harassment began which, according to Reformer workers, includes captive audience meetings, retaliation against PACE supporters, intimidation and coercion. In the most egregious action, the principal union organizer was fired May 16.

According to the Boston Globe, Reformer journalist Eesha Williams says he was first suspended indefinitely and then fired because he informed his managing editor on May 12 that he supported PACE and the union drive. Charles Kamen, Media News Group’s vice president of human resources, who has traveled to Brattleboro frequently, claims Williams was fired “for a breach of journalist ethics,” based on a call Williams made to Senator Jim Jeffords seeking support for the union drive. Williams says the call was made at his home and he left his home phone number on Jefford’s voice mail.

MediaNews has also retained the notorious union-busting Nashville-based law firm King and Ballow which has sent various “representatives” to Brattleboro.

According to the May/June 2003 Columbia Journalism Review, the $55 billion privately held MediaNews Group is the seventh-largest newspaper corporation in the United States with 48 dailies (121 non-dailies) amid various other media properties in 11 states. The most widely known newspapers in MediaNews are The Denver Post, the Los Angeles Daily News, and the Salt Lake Tribune, which Singleton recently bought out with the help of the Mormon Church. Although small compared to the ”Big Five,” U.S. media monopolies, MediaNews was one of the principal lobbyists for the recent FCC gutting of ownership rules. MediaNews plans include massive expansion in the U.S. as well as in other countries, many in eastern Europe.

In June 2002 Singleton, as then chairperson of the National Newspaper Association (NNA) lead a delegation to the former USSR as part of the Russian-American Media Entrepreneurship Dialogue which he helped form in Dec. 2002. At the June 2002 Kremlin conference, Singleton was accompanied by National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) President and CEO Edward O. Fritts and two capitalist media executives. Singleton delivered his remarks before George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin. “…Media cannot be independent without economic viability. And that viability must come without government participation,” said Singleton.
(www.naa.org).

The Reformer workers, along with their allies are continuing to draw support. A May 31 rally of over 125 at the Brattleboro Common was sponsored by the Vermont AFL-CIO and endorsed by dozens of union locals and community organizations.

Before the June 26 election, the workers are asking supporters to sign their petition at www.vtlivablewage.org/vwc/reformer.html or to download the form, obtain signatures and send to: Reformer Union, 111 Dutton Farm Rd., Brattleboro, VT 05301.

For more information call: (802) 254-2531.

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