As the California Media Workers Guild at the San Francisco Chronicle prepare for a ratification vote on job and compensation concessions to Hearst Corp., the union leadership is exploring potential partnerships to eventually acquire the newspaper.

16 months,” said Carl Hall, local Guild representative at The
Chronicle, “we should be talking about buy in and not buy-outs.”
an interview Tuesday, Hall was looking past the painful week of
negotiations that produced the tentative agreement on concessions that
Chronicle publisher Hearst had been demanding under threat of a sale or
closure of the 144-year-old paper.
“We are working on it,” Hall said. “We hope to form an investor group that would be prepared to step in.”
the deal, technically an amendment to the existing labor contract
ending in June 2010, the Guild agrees to suspend seniority protections
to allow Hearst wide latitude in job cuts expected to reduce the
combined editorial and advertising union workforce by about 150
employees, decreasing the headcount from 480 to 230 workers.
said Hearst management indicated it would be making more than half of
those reductions in the newsroom, perhaps aiming to pare the unionized
team of reporters, editors, photographers and designers of about 220
down to fewer than 150.
Meanwhile, Guild members would relinquish a week of vacation, reducing the maximum paid vacation-leave each year to three weeks.
New restrictions would cap sick leave at 20 days per year.
Hall said he anticipates the newspaper’s non-union editorial workforce would sustain job losses in proportionate numbers
the tentative agreement, workers taking buyouts or who are
involuntarily laid off would receive severance of two weeks pay for
every year of employment at The Chronicle and the formerly Hearst-owned
Examiner. Non-union workers are expected to receive the same deal.
wouldn’t say who the Guild was talking to about teaming up to purchase
the organization from Hearst, but said the new ownership of the The
Chronicle could be structured as a nonprofit.

observed that even these job and compensation cuts don’t come close to
being enough to close annual losses at the paper of more than $50
million, and the union needs to “prepare for the next step.”

publisher Frank Vega issued a statement to the newspaper’s employees
Tuesday applauding the tentative labor agreement announced by the Guild
Monday evening.
Vega called the tentative deal
an “important step toward our goal of making The Chronicle financially
viable. The next step will be a vote by the Guild membership this week.”
But, if Hall has his way, it might be the steps ahead that prove really interesting.
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