MediaNews East Bay Newsrooms Go Union in Narrow Vote

By Richard Brenneman
Monday June 16, 2008 - 04:56:00 PM

By a narrow margin, journalists at East Bay newspapers owned by the Bay Area News Group-East Bay (BANG-EB) voted to unionize Friday. 

The 104-92 vote gave the Northern California Media Workers Guild 53 percent of the ballots, less than the 60 percent of editorial staff who had signed union cards but enough to win. 

The vote reverses the upset handed to union members last August when the BANG-EB President and Publisher John Armstrong unilaterally consolidated the chain's newsrooms into a single unit. 

By merging the staffs with the non-union Contra Costa Times, recently acquired from the Sacramento-based McClatchy Company, the new non-union staff majority gave Armstrong the power to abolish guild shops at the Oakland Tribune, Fremont Argus, Tri-Valley Herald and Hayward Daily Review. The National Labor Relations Board upheld the move, setting the stage for Friday's election. 

Backed with $500,000 from the national union, the guild local launched the campaign, meeting with a strong counter-effort by management. 

BANG-EB is part of MediaNews Group, a privately held national chain headed by CEO Dean Singleton, who also chairs the Associated Press, the nation's largest news service and a cooperative. 

Singleton has established near-monopolies on daily news in both the Bay Area and the Los Angeles Basin, where the main competition is from two dominant, chain-owned dailies, the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times. 

For a more detailed account of events leading up to the vote, see http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2008-06-05/article/30194