'Wire Service Guild Mulls Next Move at UPI'

Here's a story by George Garneau from the Nov. 7, 1987, edition of Editor & Publisher:

News flowed uninterrupted after United Press International management ignored its union and imposed terms of employment that boosts its power over about 850 workers represented by the Wire Service Guild.

Employees, at the Guild's urging, worked through the Nov. 1 deadline for management-imposed terms, in lieu of a negotiated contract, to take effect.

UPI, estimated to be losing more than $1 million a month, declared an impasse Oct. 22 after eight months of talks failed to yield a contract agreement with the Guild.

Management terms give 14 percent pay hikes over two years to senior employees, but take broad powers to hire, fire and contract for labor at will. They turn UPI from a closed to an open shop.

The Guild has rejected the new terms but has kept working. It continued to seek talks, and union leaders planned to tour UPI bureaus across the country to discuss the Guild's next move.

"Life goes on. We are examining our options," said Guild spokesman Al Bruce.

Saying UPI managers "appear" to have the legal right to cancel terms of the old contract, ended April 30, Bruce added, "We are free to strike."

The Guild said it would continue withholding bylines and a by-the-rules slowdown and might stage informational picketing.

An unfair-labor practice charge was pending with the National Labor Relations Board, Bruce asserted.

Negotiating sessions were planned Nov. 4 with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

A company spokesman, Christopher Smith, has said UPI needed the concessions to reorganize the money-losing news service in its effort to recover from bankruptcy under the ownership of Mexican publisher Mario Vazquez Rana. A reorganization plan is expected by year's end, he reported.

Smith said management terms were enforceable and cited precedents at the Washington Post and Baltimore Sun. He said there has been no immediate effects of the posted terms.

He said pay raises, which took effect immediately, were retroactive to April 30, denying rumors of hundreds of layoffs.

He said the Guild continues as a legitimate representative of union members.

"We are moving ahead and we are going to get on with the business of the day," Smith said. "This matter is concluded now."