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Friday, July 4, 2008

Newspaper Management Strikes Back

Posted By on Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 8:00 AM

click to enlarge sara_bullhorn.jpg
By John Geluardi

MediaNews may be the biggest newspaper company in the Bay Area, but apparently that does not mean its leadership is above small actions.

East Bay newspaper employees who work for MediaNews publications, which include the Contra Costa Times and Oakland Tribune, voted for a union last month despite heavy opposition from top managers.

The union campaign was heralded as a milestone in American journalism because it promoted a new union model that sought to maintain quality journalism in an industry plagued by declining revenue, dwindling readership and deep cutbacks to newsroom staff.

But faster than you can say “Taft-Hartley,” Publisher John Armstrong and Executive Editor Kevin Keane laid off Sara Steffens, a key leader in the union effort.

Steffens, an award winning social services reporter, was among 29 employees who will lose their jobs on July 11. Management claimed the layoffs were based on a on an “evaluation of the expendability or redundancy of positions,” but Northern California Media Workers Guild are challenging the criteria, which they say is suspect. Other prominent union organizers were also laid off.

In an odd twist, none of the newsroom employees who were associated with an anti-union Web site, www.whyunionfree.com were on the list.

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