Union members at the Ulster County, New York-based newspaper “The Daily Freeman” were scheduled to vote this evening on whether to ratify a contract with the paper’s future owner. “The Freeman”, along with other Journal Register Company papers, will belong to the new owner, reportedly next month, when the sale is expected to close.
Letters went out last month to Kingston-based "Daily Freeman" employees, informing them of impending layoffs, and other potential changes, when the sale goes through. Bernie Lunzer says the letters were from the future owner, 21st Century CMH Acquisitions, a subsidiary of Alden Global Capital LLC, which owns Journal Register. Lunzer is the president of the Newspaper Guild, the media union that represents 60 journalists, advertising staff, and support staff at “The Daily Freeman”.
And he talks about the content of the e-mailed letters, which he says were also sent to employees at other Journal Register Company papers where the Newspaper Guild has members, in Philadelphia and Detroit. So far, says Lunzer, the letter has not translated into any layoffs in at the Freeman.
He says officials from 21st Century CMH sat down with union employees at "The Daily Freeman", worked out a tentative agreement, and it is that agreement on which members were slated to vote tonight. The future owner was the only bidder in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy auction.
Rosemary Armao is assistant professor of journalism at the State University of New York at Albany. She says the sale could hurt both reporters and the community.
Patricia Doxsey, a journalist at “The Daily Freeman” who is a union representative, did not reply to a request for comment. Ira Fusfeld, publisher emeritus of “The Daily Freeman”, and a WAMC board member, who is not involved in contract negotiations, referred a request for comment to Jonathan Cooper, a spokesman for Digital First Media, which operates MediaNews Group and Journal Register Company. Cooper, in an e-mailed statement said, quote, “Journal Register Company’s leadership team cannot speak on behalf of the new owner but has continually expressed to the purchaser that a competent and competitive workforce is critical to the Company’s success moving forward.” End of quote.
“The Saratogian” and “The Record” of Troy, both Journal Register Company properties, are not represented by the Washingon, D.C.-based Newspaper Guild.