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Latest News - July 2011

July 20, 2011
Sun-Times may lay off more than 400 union workers when plant closes
Source: Chicago Tribune
By: Robert Channick

When the Chicago Sun-Times plant on South Ashland Avenue closes its doors this fall, more than 400 union workers -- from pressmen to drivers -- will be out of a job.

With production of the Sun-Times and seven of its suburban daily newspapers moving over to the Chicago Tribune's Freedom Center, some of the displaced workers will likely land there as well.

But how many, and whether they will be able to retain their union affiliation, remains to be seen. While the Sun-Times plant is unionized, the Tribune facility employs mostly non-union workers, according to executives.

"The net is going to be cast wide open for the positions we're recruiting for," Becky Brubaker, senior vice president of manufacturing and distribution for Chicago Tribune Media Group, said Wednesday. "We'll be looking for qualified candidates -- certainly the technical skills and the ones that will fit in with our culture and our organization."

The deal, which was announced Tuesday, will shutter the Sun-Times' 12-year-old facility, which was built at a cost of more than $100 million.  Outsourcing production of its newspapers will save more than $10 million in annual operating costs, said Sun-Times Media Chairman Jeremy Halbreich.

Opened in 1982, the Freedom Center at 777 W. Chicago Ave. prints the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Investor's Business Daily, in addition to the Tribune's family of newspapers. With the addition of eight Sun-Times products, the facility will be near capacity, churning out 15 titles per day.

Brubaker said producing the Sun-Times newspapers will require hiring additional staff, with the amount to be determined. While displaced Sun-Times workers will receive full consideration, many of the comparable Tribune positions are non-union.

Electricians at the Sun-Times plant are members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, but their counterparts at the Tribune are not. Sun-Times mailers and operating engineers are represented by the Communications Workers of America and the International Union of Operating Engineers, respectively.  Comparable positions at the Tribune are non-union.

Pressmen and drivers are represented by Teamsters Local 706 at both the Tribune and Sun-Times plants. Likewise, machinists at both facilities are members of the International Association of Machinists Local 126.

Representatives from the Teamsters and electricians' union did not immediately have a comment.

While declining to comment on whether some workers will have to give up their union affiliations to move to the Tribune, Brubaker encouraged all of the displaced Sun-Times employees to apply.

"We look forward to employees from there applying for positions here," she said.

 

 


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