Protesting cuts at the LA Times

By Cindy Kaffen

LOS ANGELES--One hundred union members and their supporters rallied and marched at the Los Angeles Times newspaper headquarters February 23 to protest management's union-busting tactics and retaliatory campaign against pressroom workers.

Since the first collective bargaining agreement of the pressroom workers--members of the newly formed Local 140-N of the Graphic Communications Conference/International Brotherhood of Teamsters (GCC/IBT)--was ratified in December at the notoriously anti-union newspaper, the 250 men and women who run the presses have been subject to a campaign of daily harassment, deteriorating safety and targeting of union supporters for discipline and termination.

What you can do

Contact Los Angeles Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein at 1-800-LA-TIMES and demand that he investigate the actions of Senior Vice President of Operations Russ Newton and LA Pressroom Superintendent Johnny Walker for their union busting tactics--and demand that they obey the law and the rights of their employees.

Press workers are being disproportionately targeted in ongoing cuts at the Times-- 63 pressroom employees are slated for termination in this latest round--and being offered severance packages of a few weeks instead of the up to eight months reportedly being offered to other (non-union) employees and supervisors.

The workers voted for Teamsters representation in January 2007 to fight the ongoing cuts called for by the Tribune Company, owner of the Times since 2000. It was the first time workers in the pressroom had union representation since 1970.

They ratified their contract in December 2008, and now are being targeted by billionaire owner Sam Zell, who bought the Tribune Company in April 2007. Zell slashed jobs and filed for the safety of bankruptcy protection as workers were ratifying their contract.

Local 140-N President Ronnie Pineda explained, "Most of us have been working for decades here. We're saying treat us with the equality and fairness we deserve. They can spend hundreds of millions for baseball players [the Tribune Company also owns the Chicago Cubs], but have to get rid of us? It doesn't add up."

James has worked at the Times for 25 years. As he said:

We're tired of being pounded on because we're pro-union. We worked hard for years, giving our best. With the cuts over the past few years, we're under a lot of pressure to get it out with less and less people--and this is what you get. We're all just a number to them. It's not just 63 jobs, it's 63 families that are being cut.

Pressroom workers were joined at the rally by GCC/IBT Local 404, Teamsters Local 396, Iron Workers Local 416 and members of the Service Employees International Union. The union has filed unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board, and is planning for future actions.