A Bad Pressmen's Union Letter to LAT Advertisers
Yet, sadly, that is what we see this week in the disclosure of a letter from the Bargaining Committee for the Pressmen's union which threatens Times advertisers as a means of putting pressure on Times managers.
The letter, which says the union may ask customers to boycott the advertisers unless it fares better in negotiations with the Times over a contract for its pressmen members, is, I think, contrary to the long range interests not only of the newspaper and its pressmen, but all Times employees.
It is why, despite many differences with Times management over the 39 years I was a reporter at the Times, I never supported the unionization of the paper. I always feared that fanatic union members would, in effect, throw out the baby with the bathwater -- that in pursuing one more contract advantage, they would threaten the newspaper's wellbeing.
In the interest of disclosure, I must freely acknowledge here that in the fight over front page advertising sales ordered by the Tribune toady publisher, David Hiller, last year I urged a boycott of the Macy's Co. if it continued to advertise on the front page of the Times. That seems now to me to have been a mistake, although the issue was somewhat different. I was advocating action against an advertiser which I felt was jeopardizing the quality of the paper.
A general boycott of advertisers to secure a union contract would jeopardize the very existence of the paper.
No wonder a pressman who is a friend of mine e-mails me that "many of us (are) saddened and upset over this tactic."
If I were still an employee, pressman, reporter, editor or anything else, I would be upset too, because it seems to me it can only raise the possibility of deeper immediate layoffs at the Times, and we have seen enough of those already.
We cannot, and must not, forget that a strike of New York newspaper unions against that city's newspapers years ago resulted in the eventual permanent shutdown of several of the New York papers, which was a tragedy.
I certainly feel the Pressmen's union, which is part of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, is entitled to a fair contract, and I would hope that, if the talks are at an impasse, the two sides could reconsider their interests and come to a settlement.
But I would not favor a strike against the paper at this time. and I certainly do not favor a boycott of advertisers.
The union letter, after some mealy mouthed talk about realizing that the newspaper industry is in financial trouble these days, goes on to say to the advertisers:
"This letter is to advise you, our advertiser, that the (union) and its members may exercise their right under the National Labor Relations Act which includes the right to handbill in front of your establishment and ask your customers not to buy your product because you advertise in the L.A. Times.
"This is certainly not what we would prefer to do, but this is a decision that the company is forcing us employees to consider making..."
I feel this is tantamount to a mobster saying: "I don't want to commit murder, but I may be forced to."
This is truly Jimmy Hoffa's Teamsters union. It is contrary to decent conduct, and a direct threat not only to the fortunes of the L.A. Times, but, as I say, the fortunes of all its employees, not to mention the interests of Los Angelenos and all Californians to have a strong, vibrant Los Angeles Times.
This morning comes the shocking and depressing news that Jim Newton, the L.A. Times' outstanding editorial pages editor, has decided to leave the newspaper to write a book about Dwight D. Eisenhower.
This is the latest of a series of tragic losses of talented personnel. I will have more to say about it tomorrow. I think, from what I understand, that Newton was fed up with Tribune policies. But it is true also he enjoys book writing, after his biography of Earl Warren, and had been looking forward to getting back to it.
Labels: Times moves