Mercury News Guild members prepare for possible sale of company

From: Luther Jackson
Sent: Thursday, November 10, 2005 7:41 AM
To: Mercury News Guild Members; Monterey Herald Guild Members; forum
Subject: Guild update on possible KR sale
Importance: High  

San Jose Guild president Becky Bartindale, Guild Monterey Herald leader Joe Livernois and I participated in a Guild conference call this morning to discuss the possible ramifications of a Knight Ridder sale.

Included on the call were Guild leaders from other Knight Ridder papers as well as Guild president Linda Foley, Secretary-Treasurer Bernie Lunzer, Guild KR representative Darren Carroll, union counsel Barbara Camens and CWA research economist Suman Ray.

We discussed how various sale scenarios could affect Guild contracts with Knight Ridder papers.

If a company acquired Knight Ridder -- as a whole entity -- in a stock sale, our legal research indicates that the buyer would likely have to assume the contracts.

If, say, KR sold off some of its papers in an asset sale, the impact on Guild members could be severe.

In most cases, an asset sale allows the buyer to cancel union contracts, fire the existing staff, and unilaterally set working conditions for the newly hired staff. If the buyer retains more than one-half of the original staff, the union is automatically recognized as bargaining agent but must negotiate a new agreement.

This is essentially what happened in 1997 when KR acquired the Monterey Herald.  We finally got a new contract in November of 2003.

Since then, however, buyers in many asset sales have elected to retain all of the existing employees and recognize the existing contract.  That is what occured recently when Gannett Co. Inc. purchased the Detroit Free Press from KR.

In addition, the national Guild-CWA is establishing a subcommittee to explore ways to exert the union's influence in any sales transaction so as to ensure a high level of community service and to benefit Guild members and other KR employees.

Finally, the San Jose Guild is establishing a committee of Mercury News and Monterey Herald members to address KR sale contengencies and to seek community support for Guild members and other employees.

Please respond to this e-mail if you would like to serve on this committee.

Luther Jackson
Executive Officer
San Jose Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 39098