Newspaper Strike Countdown: Scenes From Today’s Rally
Hundreds of Newspaper Guild members marched during a noontime rally Thursday at the Market Street office of Philadelphia Media Network, chanting demands for a fair contract as the clock ticked down on just more than two days left before the current work agreement expires.
“We stand up! We fight back!” chanted members of the union — which represents journalists, ad sales and support staffers at the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.
Howard Gensler, president of the Guild, said the company’s future depends on a fair contract. Without one, he suggested, the guild will strike — and a strike might badly damage the newspapers. So, he said, it’s time for PMN’s management to compromise, get a deal, and save the company’s future.
“A work stoppage would cripple this company,” he said. “They know it. We know it.”
Amy Buckman, a spokeswoman for PMN, noted after the rally that a single negotiating session — with a federal mediator — remains between the two sides. “The hope of the company is that it will be a fruitful session,” she said.
Guild members were joined at the rally by Philadelphia labor leaders.
Jerry Jordan, director of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, noted that his union and the Guild are both battling management over seniority issues.
“We are going through the same struggle,” he told the crowd, and added: “The PFT is here, and here in solidarity with you!”
“You are the newspaper,” added Pat Eiding, president the Philadelphia AFL-CIO.
What happens if the contract expires is unclear. Bill Ross, the guild’s executive director, said it depends in part on if the federal mediator overseeing negotiations tries to keep both sides at the table. The guild’s national leadership will also be consulted, he said.
“We’re planning on getting a fair deal,” he said.
The two sides have been at an impasse over seniority and healthcare issues. Ross noted that Guild members had seen reductions in workforce, salary and benefits for years, going back to the ownership of Brian Tierney.
“We’ve helped this employer repeatedly,” he told the crowd Thursday. “Our member can’t afford to give back one more penny.”
The rally came hours after PMN sent employees a memo advising them on how to cross picket lines if they choose not to join a strike.The company has said it will continue to publish in print and online, even if a strike occurs.
“The plan is to continue to publish with the staff that’s here on any given day,” Buckman said after the rally. “We believe there will be people here to do that.”
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