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News ::
17 Jun 2003

By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Amherst, Mass.
Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the June 19, 2003
issue of Workers World newspaper


By Bryan G. Pfeifer
Amherst, Mass.

The MediaNews Group, led by its CEO William Dean Singleton, is busy
attempting to smash a union drive at the Brattle boro Reformer--a daily newspaper it owns in Brattleboro, Vt.

But the workers are fighting back.

For years workers at the Reformer talked about forming a union because
of numerous grievances, mostly focused on pay and benefits. Even before the MediaNews Corp. bought out the formerly "family-owned" Reformer in 2001, journalists and other newsroom workers made a pittance-about $20,000 a year despite seniority.

Only five of the 170 newspapers Media News owns are unionized. The wages and benefits at the five show the difference: average wages are double that of the non-unionized newspapers.

In mid-spring 2003, 41 Reformer newsroom staff decided by card vote to
join PACE--the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers
Interna tional Union. After the regional office of the National Labor
Relations Board scheduled a June 26 election, a campaign of harassment
began which, according to Reformer workers, included captive audience
meetings, retaliation against PACE supporters, intimidation and
coercion. In the most egregious action, the principal union organizer
was fired on 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

Charles Kamen, MediaNews Group's vice president of human resources,
claims Williams was fired "for a breach of journalist ethics," because
Williams called Sen. Jim Jeffords seeking support for the union drive.
Williams says the call was made from his home and that he left his home phone number on Jefford's voice mail.

MediaNews has retained the notorious, union-busting, Nashville-based law firm King and Ballow, which has sent various "representatives" to

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 and 121 non-dailies amid various other media properties in 11 states.

The most widely known newspapers in MediaNews are the Denver Post, Los
Angeles Daily News and the Salt Lake Tribune--which Singleton recently
bought 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--including formerly socialist countries.

In June 2002, Singleton--then chairperson of the National Newspaper
Associ ation (NNA)--led a delegation to the former USSR as part of the
Russian-American Media Entrepreneurship Dia logue which he helped form.
At the June 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 ( Judging by his company's
record, this means the unrestrained right to exploit the workers.

The Reformer workers and their allies are continuing to draw support. A May 31 rally of more than 125 at the Brattleboro Common was sponsored by the Vermont AFL-CIO and endorsed by dozens of local unions and community organizations.

Before the June 26 election, Reformer workers are asking supporters to
sign their petition at 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.

- END -

(Copyright Workers World Service: Everyone is permitted to copy and
distribute verbatim copies of this document, but changing it is not
allowed. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY,
NY 10011; via e-mail: ww (at) Subscribe wwnews-
on (at) Unsubscribe wwnews-off (at) Support the
voice of resistance
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