Chronicle Union Bows to Hearst, Accepts Longer Hours, Layoffs

By Richard Brenneman
Monday March 16, 2009 - 05:03:00 PM

San Francisco Chronicle workers voted Friday to cut their benefits and extend their working hours so that fewer of their colleagues would lose their jobs. 

The agreement followed the Hearst Corporation’s announcement that without worker concessions, the company would sell or close San Francisco’s last metropolitan daily. 

Members of the Media Workers Guild had good reason to fear Hearst’s closure threat, given the company’s announcement that it is shutting down the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, leaving Seattle a one-newspaper town. 

San Francisco guild members voted 333 to 33 in favor of the company offer, according to a statement issued by the union after the vote. 

According to the union, “layoffs and buyouts are expected to claim at least 150 Guild jobs in the weeks ahead.” 

That figure means a further 26 percent reduction in an already severely diminished staff. The Teamsters, the company’s other major union with 420 employees, will vote on a similar pact in the near future. 

Among the concessions from the union were a 2.5-hour increase in the work week to 40 hours, elimination of seniority rights, reductions in vacation and leave time and acceptance of the company’s ability to outsource jobs previously covered by the union. 

In Seattle, Hearst’s Post-Intelligencer will remain a journalism “brand,” though in vastly diminished form on a website which the paper reported will employ a total staff of about 40, equally divided between advertising and news. The final edition rolls off the presses Tuesday, March 17.