February 18, 2007
The National Writers Union has called on the owner of the Toledo Blade newspapers to halt its lockout of 200 employees and to begin serious bargaining in an effort to end a nearly year-old labor dispute. The Toledo Blade, a daily newspaper, is owned by Block Communications Inc. (BCI), which is headquartered in Toledo, Ohio.
“For nearly a year, Block Communications has been trying to force its employees to accept pay cuts and reduced benefits. BCI also has threatened layoffs, prevented experienced staffers from doing their jobs, and replaced locked-out workers with inexperienced non-union scabs,” said Gerard Colby, president of the National Writers Union.
“The company appears intent on not just wringing financial concessions from its unions but busting them as well,” he added. “The NWU supports its brothers and sisters of the Toledo local of the Newspaper Guild as well as all members of other unions at the paper.”
Colby made his comments in a letter sent last week to Allan Block, owner of BCI.
BCI has locked out five of the six unions working at the Toledo Blade without contracts since March 21, 2006.
BCI replaced 200 locked-out union drivers, pressmen, typographers, and advertising-insert handlers with 60 temporary workers and brought in management employees to handle the increased workload. In addition, the Blade is threatening to replace the 350 members of the Toledo Newspaper Guild with replacement workers from other newspapers.
“The National Writers Union abhors BCI’s hiring of two union-busting law firms, Nashville’s King & Ballow and Chicago’s Seyfarth Shaw,” Colby said. “The hiring of these firms has poisoned labor negotiations. We urge BCI to terminate its relationship with them both. We also urge BCI to suspend its non-starter contract demands and make a good-faith effort to secure reasonable cost-cutting measures that preserve the newspaper’s excellent reputation locally and nationally without eviscerating its workforce.”
“While the Toledo Blade is losing money, the unions have demonstrated a willingness to work with management to make the paper profitable once again,” Colby added. “Yet BCI, which once had a reputation for working harmoniously with its unions and fostering high-quality journalism, appears intent on dismantling its unions. We oppose these tactics and stand in solidarity with the employees of the Blade as they seek to retain decent salaries, benefits, and collective bargaining rights for their members.
“The National Writers Union calls on the management of Block Communications Inc. to negotiate fairly with its unions. We stand in solidarity with the union employees and freelancers of the Blade in opposing the heavy-handed actions of the management team and their lawyers.”
The National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981, is the only labor union and advocacy organization for freelance writers in all genres, media, and formats, including journalism, book, technical, academic, education, blogs, Web sites, and others. The National Writers Union is located at 113 University Place, 6th floor, New York, NY 10003; (212) 254-0279, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.nwu.org. For more information, contact Gerard Colby, president.