MediaNews Group Chain Voting on Union Today

By Strupp, Joe | Editor & Publisher, June 13, 2008 | Go to article overview

MediaNews Group Chain Voting on Union Today


Strupp, Joe, Editor & Publisher


One of those urging employees at a string of MediaNews Group papers outside San Francisco to cast ballots in today's union vote may be an unlikely get-out-the-vote source: Publisher John Armstrong.

Armstrong, who oversees the nine-paper Bay Area News Group - East Bay, has publicly expressed his opposition to having his chain's newsrooms under Newspaper Guild representation. Just last month, he told E&P: "I would hope the employees would do what is best for them and best for the company -- to remain union-free."

But that has not stopped Armstrong from pushing his employees to take part in today's vote that will decide if the newspapers come under guild representation.

In a reminder to staffers on Thursday, Armstrong urged them to "Please Vote Tomorrow," then went on to state: "Your future and that of our newsrooms could be decided for many years by the outcome of tomorrow's vote. That's why it's so important that you take the few minutes to vote, regardless of your opinion on the issue."

But his note makes clear that votes are secret and employees who signed one of the many "union cards" requesting that a vote be held are not obligated to vote in favor of a union.

"No one will ever know how you voted," he wrote to them, adding later, "Vote for what you think is best for yourself, your colleagues and the company. The signing of a union card carries no obligation to vote for the union."

He then reminds workers, "A 'yes' vote means you want to designate the union as your exclusive bargaining representative for wages, hours and working conditions. A 'no' vote means you want to continue working in a union-free environment."

Armstrong said he simply wants all possible voters to be involved. "Whatever decision is made, we want it to reflect the broadest spectrum of employees," he told E&P Friday. "I don't want anyone to come away from this saying, 'I wish I had only voted'."

The voting is taking place at each paper during two-hour intervals today, although any of the 230 eligible staffers can vote at any of the sites, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. PDT.

Union supporters are also pushing for voters to take part, even posting an item on their Web site offering rides to polling places: "We will give a ride to any voter who needs one. And we do emergencies -- if you missed the polling time at your office but still want to vote, we can drive you to another office with an open poll. Just call ... and we'll hook you up." The union vote comes more than 10 months after MediaNews Group withdrew recognition of the Newspaper Guild unit at its Alameda Newspaper Group. …

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