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Star Tribune pressmen again reject multi-million-dollar concessions

For the second time, the Star Tribune pressmen have overwhelmingly rejected major contract concessions — but Teamsters leaders may hand management a major victory in its quest to stay solvent.

Here’s why Wednesday’s 80-29 rejection matters to civilians: the Strib has already defaulted on interest payments to secondary lenders, and is counting on blue-collar givebacks to stay afloat. The Strib wrested $2.5 million from its newsroom union this spring, but the Teamster cut is far bigger — and thus far more crucial: around $12 million.

In July, the pressmen’s 77-27 “no” vote also doomed “yes” votes by the Strib’s mailers and drivers. However, the The Teamsters for a Democratic union website reports that union execs have now disconnected the deals — meaning the mailers and drivers concessions will go through.

If true, that’s a huge concession to management, one rank-and-filers oppose, TDU says.

According to informed sources, the Strib calculates the pressmen’s cuts at $2.7 million — meaning ownership will reap around $9 million of its desired $12 million thanks to drivers and mailers. Some pressmen believe their concessions are more costly, said the source, who is not authorized to talk to the media.

Union hardcores contend the Strib isn’t near bankruptcy, but ownership has pressed for approved givebacks as a scheduled Sept. 30 debt payment looms.

TDU says the pressmen’s three-year wage cut amounts to 16 percent; a 10 percent immediate cut and two forgone $1-an-hour raises. Overtime cuts and other work-rule changes from July seem to be preserved.

The pressmen’s current deal runs through December 2010. Management is bound by ironclad “manning” rules governing press-equipment staffing, making it far more difficult to lay people off.

TDU says had the deal been approved, 60 of 340 shifts would’ve been cut. The company proposes 18 buyouts; TDU notes 51 members currently have lifetime job guarantees, 51 have guarantees for the contract’s life and 29 lack guarantees.

Writes TDU, “The union asked for more protection for current members, which the company rejected. ‘They are trying to rape us,’ said the union member. ‘It’s time to take a stand.'”

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