Si Newhouse fakes hardball with Teamsters

Multi-billionaire leftist threatens militant union with big dues hit by going out of business

Newspaper drivers are a tough lot, and in Newark they're playing tough with the struggling Star-Ledger. The Newhouse-owned paper is playing tough right back. Yesterday publisher George Arwady shot a memo to employees advising them that the paper's drivers were refusing to make contract concessions, and that if the drivers didn't give in, its owners could well close the paper, the state's largest and most powerful.

"Since it is doubtful that the drivers will ratify an agreement by October 8, 2008, we will be sending formal notices to all employees this week, as required by both federal and New Jersey law, advising you that the company will be sold, or, failing that, that it will close operations on January 5, 2009," the memo says.

Back in July, in a move that stunned many, the paper's owners told employees they needed to slash costs in the face of rising losses from advertising, and that it would sell or fold the paper unless it got them.

Arwady then told staffers the paper was looking to cut 200 of the paper's 750 nonunion employees and to squeeze concessions from the unionized mailers and truck drivers. It's set an October deadline.

The Newhouse's Advance Publications was also looking for concessions from the Trenton Times, which it also owns, along with Conde Nast, the high-end magazine publishing house. Other holdings include the Oregonian, the Times-Picayune of New Orleans, Cleveland's Plain Dealer, and the Advance of Staten Island.

Yesterday, in his memo, Arwady wrote that management expected the mailers to approve concessions in a union vote next week and that it's making progress on trimming the ranks of the nonunion workers, leaving just the drivers.

"It is most unfortunate that we have to send out this notice, but the drivers have left us with no choice," he wrote.

Things look particularly dire for the Star-Ledger, which is expected to lose as much as $40 million this year. The Newhouse family has hired J.P. Morgan to handle the sale of the paper.

If the Star-Ledger were to close, it would be the largest newspaper closing in decades.


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