Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Zuckerman Takes the Helm; New N.Y. Daily News Owner Will Try to Rebuild despite Threat of a Boycott Following Massive Guild Staff Cuts

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Zuckerman Takes the Helm; New N.Y. Daily News Owner Will Try to Rebuild despite Threat of a Boycott Following Massive Guild Staff Cuts

Article excerpt

New N.Y Daily News owner will try to rebuild despite the threat of a boycott following massive Guild staff cuts

DESPITE THE THREAT of a Newspaper Guild boycott, Mortimer Zuckerman took possession of the bankrupt New York Daily News Jan. 9 in a $36 million deal.

In so doing he started a war with the paper's largest union, the New York Newspaper Guild Local 3, by summarily terminating about 185 workers, half of them from the newsroom, irrespective of seniority.

The Guild represented 450 white-collar employees in news, advertising and business departments and was the only one of 10 unions without a contract.

The Guild pledged to organize a reader and advertiser boycott and hopes to cut the paper's 800,000 daily circulation by 100,000. It is also targeting Zuckerman's entire corporate portfolio, which includes U.S. News & World Report and Atlantic Monthly and extensive real estate holdings.

The acquisition has shattered the solidarity that cemented the city's newspaper unions during a five-month 1990-91 strike against the Tribune Co.

The Guild's 24-member executive committee voted to withdraw from the Allied Printing Trades Council, the umbrella group that has represented newspaper unions for 140 years. The Guild responded to criticism by George McDonald, president of Allied and of the mailers union, who said the boycott was "counterproductive and could jeopardize" the 1,535 jobs preserved by Zuckerman.

Except for the Guild, all of the Daily News unions have signed contracts with no-strike provisions and, in some cases, signing bonuses. EVen the printers union, which Allied expelled for working during the strike in accordance with its lifetime job guarantees, signed a contract after a bankruptcy judge voided the guarantees.

At a rally in front of the Daily News Building, Guild leaders expressed anger that the drivers union had abandoned the Guild, even though the Guild walked out in 1990 to support the strike begun by the drivers union.

The Guild has hired labor organizer Ray Rogers to mount a "corporate" campaign against all of Zuckerman's business interests. Rogers has waged campaigns against such employers as Hormel and J.P. Stevens.

Zuckerman is the third owner in as many years. The Tribune Co., which founded the paper in 1919, said it lost over $100 million in a decade before it paid British publisher Robert Maxwell to take it during the strike in March 1991. However, Maxwell drowned off his yacht in November 1991 and the paper went to bankruptcy court.

"The Chicago Tribune milked the paper. Robert Maxwell raped the paper. We're investing in the paper," Zuckerman was quoted as saying in Newsday. "I think when people appreciate how committed we are to the editorial product, we'll all be able to work together and make it happen without lingering on the difficult but necessary decision of the past"

Under Zuckerman, Jim Willse, the editor who took on the publisher's title

during' the turmoil of the last year, has reverted to editor until a successor is hired. …

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