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Star Tribune labor deal mentions printing fewer days

Mind you, this is not happening at the moment — but shows Star Tribune management plans ahead.

The paper filed its new labor agreement (PDF) with the mailers’ union Monday. It’s your basic cramdown — workers who assemble and prepare papers for delivery will absorb pay cuts of 16-28 percent, with 23 layoffs to boot. New hires and current part-timers will make $12.50 an hour. According to the bankruptcy court filing, ownership estimates it will save $3.3 million annually.

The interesting part comes in a section on “manning,” which establishes crew sizes for any given shift. Management has long chafed under what it sees as contractually obligated over-staffing; the deal not only does away with that, it builds in several scenarios for further reducing crews.

Among the more likely triggers: a 5 percent (or more) circulation drop from September 2008, or a similar drop in advertising inserts. But at the bottom of the list is this:

“f. A reduction in the number of days per week the Star Tribune is published on a regular ongoing basis.”

Considering that the filing came on the day the Detroit News and Free Press stopped daily home delivery, it shouldn’t be too shocking that the Strib included this contingency. And yet, it’s still depressing to see it there in black and white.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Richard Parker on 03/31/2009 - 02:50 am.

    When I started on the Tribune copy desk in 1969, the Minneapolis Artificial Limb Co. was across the street at 4th and Portland, next door to the AP and UPI bureaus, in buildings that aren’t there anymore. The prosthetic producer was located there because of proximity to the flour mills a couple blocks nearer the river, where workers had arms and legs torn off regularly. In our building the pressmen had a “manning clause.” Management may have viewed it as a basis for chronic overstaffing, but we worker bees saw it as insurance that there would be enough hands tending the mammoth presses that those workers wouldn’t face increased danger of dismemberment due to understaffing. As we moved into the 1980s (remember that recession?) and copy desk vacancies were going unfilled, some Guild activists lobbied hard for a manning clause in our contract to shield us from a work speed-up that could cause the likelihood of more dangling modifiers, errors in fact and even worse. We never did get the manning clause. It goes without saying that staffing is much thinner now, and we should be thankful that no one has lost an arm in the scramble in the pressroom or the newsroom. Pray for those folks, please.

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