About 45 reporters and copy editors at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner left their desks late Wednesday afternoon to hold a sudden “lunch hour” discussion of their contract dispute with management, leaving most of their stories unfinished by deadline.
By 6 p.m., it was learned, management of the Hearst Corp.-owned paper decided to use wire service copy to cover most local news stories, declining to pay overtime to any reporter not working on exclusive or “enterprise” stories.
Only two or three reporters apparently were paid to remain.
“It was a surprise,” said a management member, who asked that his name not be used. “We didn’t know it was going to happen.”
A Herald reporter--who also asked not to be identified--said members of the Graphics Communication International Union “probably will take a strike authorization vote,” but could not say when.
The management spokesman said that, despite the unexpected job action in the paper’s lunch room, there was no “major breaking news” at the time and this helped the paper cope with the situation.
Most copy editors report to work at 4:30 p.m., one source said, and hence went back to their jobs at the conclusion of the “lunch hour” meeting.
The contract, which expires Sunday night, covers more than 550 employees--including reporters, photographers, press operators, mailers, secretaries and others.
Negotiations have centered on an argument over wages, medical benefits, working conditions and computer equipment--which employees complain are inadequate.
Union members have been wearing black T-shirts reading, “We Work at the Herald Examiner and Nothing Else Does.”
The union members contend that their wages ($563 top weekly scale for reporters, photographers and artists) are well below the Hearst-owned San Francisco Examiner.
The Herald Examiner was struck by members of the American Newspaper Guild in December, 1967. The action led to a lockout of all employees. The strike was settled only to the extent that the guild gave up the fight several years later.