Friday, February 15, 2008

Tribune-Times-Mirror's Historic Florida Newspaper Connections and Union-Busting

(Most of the following article appeared in the April 13, 1994 issue of the now-defunct Lower East Side alternative newsweekly, Downtown).

The Tribune-Times-Mirror media conglomerate has also been historically connected to the extremely profitable 281,000-circulation [in 1994] Orlando Sentinel and the 259,000-circulation [in 1994] Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspapers in Florida since the 1960s. As the New York Times (11/7/84) noted in its “The Prospering Tribune Co.” article:

“In Florida newspapers in Orlando and Fort Lauderdale remain the nation’s fastest-growing dailies…Analysts estimated that (in 1983) the Orlando-Sentinel earned about $40 million from operations and the Fort Lauderdale papers had a profit of about $30 million.

“Revenues for the Orlando papers have grown an average of 17 percent annually since 1980. And the two Fort Lauderdale papers have enjoyed 15.5 percent annual revenue growth.”

Another Tribune Company newspaper was published in Newport News, Virginia in the early 1990s.

Despite its profitability, in the 1980s and early 1990s the Tribune Company’s history of anti-labor editorial politics was matched by an intensification of its union-busting approach to Tribune media conglomerate employees.. As The Nation magazine noted in its May 7, 1990 issue:

“The $3 billion Tribune Company, the media conglomerate from the city of the big shoulders, loves to bash unions. In a 1985 strike it successfully replaced 1,000 of its craft workers at the Chicago Tribune with nonunion personnel. Masterminding its win over the employees of the composing room, mail room and pressroom was Robert (Cat) Ballow of King & Ballow of Nashville, notorious among unions as a hired gun.”

Following the 1985 strike of Chicago Tribune employees, the Tribune media conglomerate broke three of its employee unions and went on to eliminate 25 percent of its production work force.

At its Big Apple WPIX-TV station, the Tribune Company historically practiced its politics of union-busting by violating U.S. labor laws. As the New York Times reported in its June 28, 1990 issue:

“A 3-judge appeals panel has ruled that WPIX-TV, a station in New York City owned by the Tribune Company of Chicago, committed a deliberate violation of Federal labor law when it broke off contract talks in 1987 with 67 unionized employees of its news department.

“The action, by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan also upheld a finding by the National Labor Relations Board that the station had engaged in an unfair labor practice by refusing to pay contractually guaranteed wage increases…”

After the Newspaper Guild of New York’s contract with Tribune/WPIX-TV expired in June 1986, the number of union members on WPIX-TV/Channel 11’s staff had been decreased from about 70 to about 30 by its Tribune Company managers.

Prior to selling its New York Daily News operation to British media baron Maxwell before Maxwell’s mysterious death in late 1991, the Tribune Company also attempted to bust the unions of Daily News employees. Although the Tribune Company media conglomerate’s annual net profits rose 23 percent per year during the 1980s and its 1989 net profit exceeded $242 million, in late October 1990 it still dismissed 2,400 unionized Daily News workers. It then replaced many of these unionized workers with both local “scab” workers and “scab” employees which it flew in from its Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel or Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspapers. It also again “hired the notorious union-busting law firm of King & Ballow to conduct the negotiations,” as well as an increased number of security guards. (The Nation 12/3/90)

During the 1990-1991 strike of Daily News employees, the Tribune Company’s union-busting activity was supervised by its local publisher—a Phillips Exeter Academy and Yale University preppie graduate from Park Avenue named James Hoge. Coincidentally, the union-busting local publisher at the New York Daily News in 1990-91 was the brother of the New York Times then-Assistant Managing Editor Warren Hoge.

In the 21st-century, the billionaire Chicago real estate investor who now controls the Tribune-Times-Mirror media conglomerate, Sam Zell, continues to eliminate jobs at the corporate media conglomerate’s newspaper offices. On February 13, 2008, Tribune-Times-Mirror media conglomerate executives announced that between 400 to 500 jobs were to be eliminated at its various newspapers by March 31, 2008. Both the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune newspaper operations will reduce their staff positions by 100, while 45 positions would be eliminated at both the Hartford Courant and the Baltimore Sun newspaper offices.

(Downtown 4/13/94)

Next: Tribune-Times-Mirror’s Historic Corporate and Chicago Cubs Connection