September 6, 2013

The Star-Ledger

Publisher Richard Vezza says he’ll shut down The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger at the end of 2013 if it can’t come to an agreement with one of the four unions at the paper, Kelly Heyboer reports.

The Advance-owned paper’s newsroom isn’t a union shop, but its pressmen, engravers, machinists and mailers — who “handle the newspapers after they emerge from the presses, helping insert advertising supplements and preparing the papers to be loaded on delivery trucks” — have unions. Negotiations with all but the mailers have been fruitful:

“The differences between the Mailers’ proposed savings and the Company’s proposed savings are so far apart that, while we are still hopeful that an acceptable resolution can be achieved, we have serious doubts that, with less than a month to go, an agreement can be reached,” Vezza said in the letter mailed to union members Wednesday and e-mailed to other employees Thursday.

Officials of the Teamsters-New Jersey Mailers Union 1100 said “they have not reached a deal because Star-Ledger officials proposed more than $4.4 million in cuts, including eliminating 55 of the mailers’ 121 highest-paid workers in addition to eliminating pension and retirement benefits and reducing lower-paid mailroom helpers to a four-day workweek.” Vezza says their offer is $2 million less than the savings the paper needs to continue operations.

The Star-Ledger laid off 34 employees, including 18 in the newsroom, in January. Vezza also threatened to close the newspaper in June.

Interstate General Media threatened to sell or close its Philadelphia newspapers at the beginning of this year unless unions made more concessions. (Eventually they found room to negotiate.)

The Boston Globe endured a shutdown threat in 2009.

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Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at and managing editor of Washington City…
Andrew Beaujon

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