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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

100 union members rally near Blade for contract

Accusing The Blade of bad-faith bargaining, unionized employees marched outside the newspaper over the noon hour yesterday to draw attention to their five-month contract dispute with management.

Members of eight unions represented by the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions have been working under a contract extension since March 21. The unions represent 600 Blade employees including reporters, photographers, drivers, press operators, and advertising sales representatives.

The rally by about 100 union members was intended to “show our solidarity and to let the public know we want a fair contract and we're tired of talking,” said Randy Porter, a marketing department employee and member of Local 34043 of the Communications Workers of America's Newspaper Guild.

The unions have already made concessions on health benefits, he said. Outstanding issues include pension benefits and management proposals to link more of the advertising representatives' pay to sales, introduce a lower pay scale for new hires in certain departments, reduce severance pay, and change the grievance procedure.

Luann Sharp, a management spokesman, said the parties are scheduled to meet Aug. 27 on the pension issue. She expressed hope that disagreements will be resolved. “As long as we are willing to come to the table and have discussions about outstanding issues, we will come to a resolution,” Ms. Sharp said. “The key is to keep talking.”

Two unions, Teamsters Local 20 and Local 8 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, have settled most non-economic issues, union representatives said. But major disagreements remain with the Newspaper Guild, which is negotiating with the assistance of federal mediator Rick Terpinski. The Guild represents about half of The Blade's unionized employees including news, advertising, and some circulation.

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