UNION FUMES; ’NEWS,’ CONFUSED, ESCHEWS FEUD

Dallas has never been what you’d call a union town. But, quietly, a few labor unions do exist here; and occasionally one of them will raise a fuss, reminding us of what working life is like in most American cities. The latest complaint comes from the Dallas Typographical Union, the local member of the International Typographical Union (ITU), the nation’s largest printers’ union. Union president Ken Cowen claims that ITU members employed by the Dallas News have been subjected to “severe harassment” over the past several months at the hands of News management.

“The News is hard-line anti-union,” says Cowen. “And Richard Blum [News executive vice president in charge of production] has made it clear that he’s trying to build a non-union paper.” Cowen cites the fact that ten years ago some 95 percent of the News’ printers were union; today, he says, it’s down to about 50 percent. “The News has applied tremendous pressure against the union, particularly with a policy that no union members will be promoted to supervisor. Plus the harassment of individuals.” He mentions the case of Bob Campbell, a News employee of 32 years, very active in the union at the national level, who was laid off on his 64th birthday, one year shy of eligibility for full retirement benefits. And the case of Charlotte Grissom, a long-time employee and union member Awho, after returning to work following major surgery, was forced to work overtime until she quit in tears. And recently the News laid off the entire ad room; no coincidence, says Co-wen, that they were all union, including four union officers. “It’s not the same at the Herald,” he says. “They have a different attitude. But the News is out to destroy the union. It’s a constant hassle.”

That’s labor’s side of the story. But on the management side, Richard Blum shakes his head. “I’m not aware of any union difficulties,” he says. “We don’t care if employees are union or non-union. That’s their choice. To us it’s irrelevant. We do discourage supervisors from maintaining their status in the union, but that’s because they’d be in the position of serving two masters. But the layoffs are the result of changes in technology. With the new automated processes, we simply don’t need as many people. I’m surprised; if they think there’s a problem, they should come talk to us.”

Sounds just like Pittsburgh.

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