After a year of difficult negotiations, tentative agreements for three departments at the Baltimore Sun, represented by Local 355 and Local 888, were ratified at a jointly held membership meeting in October.
Hundreds of Teamsters crowded Baltimore Local 355’s hall to capacity in order to hear from members of the bargaining committees representing the pressmen, mailers and delivery driver groups about the contract, which includes a freeze in the percentage of health care paid for by employees, and a provision that will allow members to follow the work should the newspaper move their facility.
The Baltimore Sun had sought to shift the full burden of health care premium costs to workers, among other regressive demands, but bargaining committee members endorsed agreements that preserved current health care and enhanced job security provisions.
The fact that the three units bargained together gave members a strong edge in completing the new agreement.
“Prior to these negotiations, the company told us that they would never allow us to bargain at the same time, but we did, and having a united front helped bring about this agreement,” said Jim Deene, business agent with Local 355. “Standing together changed the tide of the negotiations.”
Larry Geho, President of Local 888, also in Baltimore, explained how with this agreement there will be job security, in stark contrast to the drastic cuts being proposed at newspapers in other cities.
“The company tried to take everything from us, but this contract includes rights that we did not have before,” Geho said.
Under the new agreement, employees would be able to follow the work, should the Baltimore Sun decide to move their facilities.
This was an important provision as during negotiations it was revealed that the newspaper had sold its largest facility, called Sun Park, to the owner of Under Armour. The sports clothing and accessories company had then leased the Sun Park property back to the newspaper under a 10-year lease with a two-year vacate clause.
“Without this agreement there was no guarantee that the company would keep the unions. They also wanted us to pay more for benefits, but we stopped them on that,” said Jim Sawyer, a 44-year transportation department employee. “If they do move to a new location they will take all of us with them. That is what the job security clause is all about.”
The Teamsters Newspaper, Magazine and Electronic Media Workers Conference assisted the local unions with negotiating strategy over the entire two-year process. “We were glad to assist members working at the Baltimore Sun achieve an agreement which gives them job security and keeps health care premium payments at an affordable level,” said Joseph Molinero, Director of the Division. “This is another example of how, when Teamsters stand together, the impossible can be accomplished.”