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Nine-Month Toledo Blade Lockout Heads to an End

May 24, 2007

Thirteen members of CWA's Printing Sector who have been locked out at the Toledo Blade for nine months are getting ready to head back to work after reaching a tentative agreement with the newspaper's management.

Contracts are also pending for 200 workers at six other unions who were also locked out last August. Members of The Newspaper Guild-CWA, the paper's largest union, weren't locked out but agreed to concessions in order to end the standoff.

Despite sacrifices in wages and health care costs for the Guild and other unions, "some very important things - jurisdiction, grievance and arbitration, severance, union security and sick pay, to name a few - are still intact," TNG-CWA Representative Jay Schmitz said.

Printing Sector President Bill Boarman said the Blade has agreed to pay $3.5 million to the locked-out unions as part of a back-pay settlement.  Money will be used to shore up the health care and pension funds, with any leftover dollars going directly to workers who were locked out.

"The back pay they owe is probably about $5 million," Boarman said. "That was the 800-pound gorilla at the table. We got them to agree to $3.5 million." In exchange, he said, the unions will settle the unfair labor practice charges that the National Labor Relations Board brought against the company alleging an illegal lockout and bad-faith bargaining.

Boarman said the unions recognize that the company is in financial trouble and showed their willingness to help by making economic concessions. But they drew the line at anti-union language that the company's attorney, Bob Ballow of the notorious union-busting firm King & Ballow, tried to insert. When the parties resumed bargaining last week, Ballow had been replaced by lawyers from another firm.

"Our people really stuck together. Their unity was tremendous," Boarman said. "No one caved in. We drove Bob Ballow out of town and most of the really terrible anti-union proposals he wanted – management rights, no strike, and no union shop – all went to the side. From that perspective, it was a major victory."