Time for Showdown

In case you missed it, Keith Kelly of The New York Post did us all a service by seeking out the president of the union said to be holding up the works at The Star-Ledger.

In a Sept. 16, 2008 memo circulated to all Ledger staffers, Arwady said the following:

“Since it is doubtful that the drivers will ratify an agreement by Oct. 8, 2008, we will be sending formal notices to all employees this week. . . advising [them] that the company will be sold or failing that, that it will close operation on Jan. 5, 2009.”

Kelly wrote, on Sept. 17:

Despite the bleak assessment, Doug Panattieri, president of the Newspaper and Mailers Delivery Union, which represents the drivers, said talks are continuing. “I see no reason why the partners cannot reach a tentative deal. The NMDU is ready and willing to continue negotiation in good faith.”

JPMorgan Chase has been retained to handle a potential sale. An attorney for Teamsters Local 1100 did not return a call seeking comment. The Mailers union declined to comment.

What does all this mean? I’m just guessing, but here is what this looks like to me.

1. This is a negotiating ploy. The newspaper is trying to get the reluctant union to agree with it’s terms. Pink-slipping all Star-Ledger employees is a necessary next step. If they don’t do it, then the threat isn’t real because federal Department of Labor regulations require 60-day notice to employees prior to a mass layoff or plant shutdown. This is called WARN (Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification) act. New Jersey’s equivalent state law, Millville Dallas Airmotive Plant Job Loss Notification Act, also requires 60-day notice.

2. Even though this is a negotiating tactic, the threat is real. If the financial info we have heard is actual, the Newhouses won’t hesitate to shut-down The Star-Ledger if they don’t get the concessions they are seeking.

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