Negotiators for the Los Angeles Herald Examiner and its 550 unionized workers reached a tentative contract agreement Monday morning after a 17-hour bargaining session.
Officials of the Graphic Communications International Union and the newspaper declined to provide details on the pact pending a ratification vote by Herald Examiner workers scheduled for 8 a.m. today.
“They gave us some things we wanted, but they didn’t give us some other key things we wanted,” said Susan Seager, a Herald reporter and spokeswoman for the unionized workers.
“It’s going to be a tough meeting, an emotional meeting,” she said of today’s gathering to consider the proposed contract.
Sources at the Herald said newsroom workers were hotly debating whether the agreement would provide as much as they wanted in improved wages and medical benefits. Workers at the Herald have viewed their paper as “a stepchild” in the Hearst empire to the San Francisco Examiner. The circulation of the Examiner is about 90,000 less than that of the Herald, which, according to recent figures, has 242,00 daily subscribers.
Top wage scale for reporters at the San Francisco paper is scheduled to go up to $800 a week in July, and it is $563 a week at the Herald. There are similar disparities in pay for press operators, mailers and secretaries at the two papers.
During negotiations, Herald management countered by saying that the two papers are not comparable because the San Francisco Examiner publishes profitably under a joint operating agreement with the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Herald was once the nation’s largest afternoon newspaper, with a circulation of about 720,000 as recently as the mid-1960s.
The paper never fully recovered from a strike that began in 1967 and led to a boycott of the paper. As a result, sales were vastly diminished and the Newspaper Guild was ousted.
One key issue in the negotiations was a demand by employees that management make a commitment to upgrade the paper by increased staffing and improvement in the presses and computer systems, which, Herald employees complain, frequently break down.