Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Don't Count Labor Out

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Don't Count Labor Out

Article excerpt

NEWSPAPERS MAY HAVE written the obituary for their unions too soon, a management attorney warns.

Despite their plunging membership rolls in the past decade and a half, newspaper unions are poised to benefit from a revitalized labor movement - and from structural industry changes that could aid organizing efforts, according to Charles Price, a partner with Baker & Hostetler law office in Chicago.

For all of us who thought unions were dead, the pendulum is swinging and in fact has swung the other way," Price told a session at the 111th annual Inland Press Association meeting in Chicago.

Price, a former president and publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, said new top leadership in the AFL-CIO is aggressively pushing organizing with a strategy that combines the fervor of young organizers with the sophistication of modern marketing techniques.

"The unions now know there is no one-size-fits-all brand of organizing," Price said, "and they've become much more sophisticated in targeting their organization and their pitches to the employees.

They analyze their work force, match organizers to the workplace to enhance their chances for success. They give organizers good resource materials with professional help. They use sophisticated techniques like focus groups, polling, surveys and the like.... Depending on the employees, the issues they focus on are not the usual bread and butter, but worker participation, voice in determining what happens to them in their workplace, respect, dignity, pay and pay equity, family issues, fairness and, a major one these days, job security," Price said.

Newspapers have already felt some of the impact of the alliances labor is forging with the religious community, Price noted.

"Those of you who have been up in Detroit and seen the strike up there realize the clergy have been a very strong presence on the picket line," he said. More important, however, unions also are far more willing than before to finance organizing drives, Price said. Under the new leadership of former Service Employees International Union president John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO has increased its funding of organizing drives from about $2.5 million a few years ago to more than $20 million today, Price said. …

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