Workers at the Los Angeles Herald Examiner on Tuesday narrowly ratified a three-year contract after a tumultuous meeting at which some Herald employees brandished dog bones and tossed chicken feed to indicate that the contract was not good enough.
Herald employees approved the contract by a 164-159 vote, with one abstention, according to reporter Susan Seager. She said that more than 100 people left before the vote on the pact, which covers about 550 employees, including reporters and photographers and advertising, secretarial, pressroom and mail room personnel.
The Herald employees will get wage increases of 5% in the first year of the agreement, 4% in the second year and 5% in the third year.
Top weekly scale for reporters was $563.
Improved Medical Plan
Additionally, management agreed to “a much improved medical plan,” Seager said. In particular, starting in July, 1990, employees will no longer have to make co-payments for dependent care.
The contract also provides that workers will have their first day off for an illness paid, and they gained an additional paid holiday.
A number of employees, particularly reporters, were disgruntled and urged that the pact be rejected in a stormy meeting at the Hollywood Roosevelt. At one point, according to several sources, a group of employees ran up to the podium and started shouting when they believed that representatives of the Graphic Communications International Union, which represents the Herald workers, was not giving them an adequate opportunity to speak.
Glenn Haynes, vice president of operations for the union, acknowledged that some reporters and photographers believed that the union could have gotten a better deal. But he said, “We were assured by the management that was their last, best and final offer.” As to the contentiousness of the meeting, he said, “It was a good meeting--nothing out of the ordinary, just healthy discussion.”
One unusual aspect of the negotiations was the fact that Herald workers were pressing management for a commitment to make capital improvements to the paper, particularly in its computer system, which they said breaks down frequently.
‘Invest in Itself’
“We’re asking the company to invest in itself,” Seager said. “The computer shouldn’t be our problem, but (it’s) become our problem.”
The workers were given no guarantee on this issue. However, John McCabe, general manager and chief operating officer of the Herald, said that in the latest budget proposal he gave to Hearst executives in New York, he had urged them to spend $2.6 million for a computer system that would be used by editorial and advertising personnel. McCabe said he hoped for a favorable decision from the Hearst board late this month.