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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Teamsters Head Uses Toilet, Death Analogies to Express Why New Chronicle Presses Must Be Unionized

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2009 at 8:59 AM

"New plant opening up in Fremont -- looks like I'm out of work."

In this, the San Francisco Chronicle's 144th birthday week, the paper has giddily promised its readers "144 days of extra surprises, leading up to the biggest of them all -- new presses."

You won't read about it in the Chron, but not everyone is gleefully counting the days to the grand opening of the massive new Fremont printing facility being built by Montreal-based corporation Transcontinental, Inc. (and we wonder whether average readers will feel the paper's new press is really such a surprise and gift to them). But the paper's current printers are not surprised -- nor happy.

When the $200 million plant opens, perhaps as early as March, it will almost certainly do so without a unionized workforce. Transcontinental has not made a secret of its desire to eventually print every large paper in the Bay Area (it has already signed a 15-year deal with Hearst Corp., owners of the Chronicle) -- and this could put many of the smaller print shops under.

"They will have the most efficient press, so I think it's only a matter of time before they will be printing all of the largest jobs in the Bay Area," Dave Brown, president of Union City's Fricke-Parks Press, told the East Bay Business Times. "Any printer that doesn't have a contract with a publication will be in danger of losing their larger accounts."

SF Weekly's calls to Transcontinental in Montreal were directed to HR officials in Fremont -- who did not call back.

Carlos Flores, the head of the Graphics Communications Conference union, told the media 200 to 300 or more union printers will be out of work as a result of the new plant, which he claims has offered its future workers wages around half those of current Chron printers ($15-18 an hour as opposed to $28-31).

Rome Aloise, the principal officer of the Teamsters' Local 853, told SF Weekly that 180 to 200 union mailers -- who place inserts within the paper, among other tasks -- will soon be replaced by "cheap, nonunion labor" or automation. While Aloise believes some of Transcontinental's plants are unionized, he and his colleagues have not made headway in their negotiations with the operators of the Fremont facility. But he hasn't played all his cards yet.

"If they are intent on opening that plant nonunion, [we will start] an advertisers' boycott -- and that will stop the swirl of the Chronicle down the bowl and it will go all the way down," Aloise said. "It would be a death-wish to open that plant non-union."

Will there be a neat resolution to this situation? Well, that truly would be a surprise.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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