Union infighting at the Chicago Tribune hobbles buyout negotiations with Alden Global Capital

Union infighting at the Chicago Tribune hobbles buyout negotiations with Alden Global Capital
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Members of the Chicago Tribune chapter of NewsGuild-CWA say their national leadership abandoned them during buyout negotiations with the paper’s new owner, Alden Global Capital. 

“We have a situation in Chicago that should alarm each of you, even if you aren't in agreement with our current position,” wrote Gregory Pratt, the president of the Chicago Tribune chapter of the NewsGuild in a Wednesday memo to union members obtained by The Hill.

“TL;DR, the guild has abandoned us and left us without representation at the bargaining table to punish us for a local decision,” he added. 

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Chicago Tribune investigative reporter Todd Lighty also protested the decision of the Guild’s national leaders.

“The News Guild lacks the resources and talent to fully represent us and all the newly unionized newsrooms,” Lighty tweeted. “We will not give up and will fight on without national's support.”

 

NewsGuild’s national leadership did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Hill. Alden also did not immediately respond to questions about the union dispute. 

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In the letter, first tweeted by labor reporter Mike Elk, Pratt said the problems began after the local disagreed with national leaders over the technical structure of the joint team that would negotiate buyouts with Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that recently acquired the Chicago Tribune’s parent company, Tribune Publishing.

The leadership initially told Pratt and other local members that the decision was the local’s to make.  But the next day, Pratt said, they removed the local chapter’s preferred negotiator from the negotiating team at a time when an alternate local negotiator was unavailable. 

The decision was a consequence for the local’s actions, Pratt was told.

“You may believe we have taken a stance that is a weaker position for your units and for ours. Reasonable minds can disagree,” Pratt wrote. “But the guild decided it doesn't agree with a local decision and abandoned us in the middle of a fight for our members.”

Because of the decision, Pratt said, it’s unclear what will happen next in the negotiations.  

“Right now, we have representation at the local level until noon...” he wrote “and then it's up in the air.” 

Neither Pratt nor Lighty would comment on the controversy.

Alden began offering buyouts to unrepresented employees at the Tribune and other papers it now owns shortly after the acquisition was completed.  

But buyouts for represented workers must be negotiated with each union that represents journalists and other employees at the newspapers.  

This means Alden must negotiate with Pratt’s Chicago Tribune Guild and 12 other NewsGuild locals, who rely on the national organization for help during the talks.