Newspapers and Indianapolis Star and Lawsuits and Publishing and Communications and Media & Marketing

Union representing Indianapolis Star employees sues Gannett

February 20, 2010

The 178-member union at The Indianapolis Star is suing the newspaper to preserve its arbitration rights, and possibly win back the jobs of eight people who were let go last summer.

The Indianapolis Newspaper Guild filed a lawsuit Feb. 5 in U.S. District Court against Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. and Pacific and Southern Co., subsidiaries of Virginia-based Gannett Co.

At issue is whether some rules of the contract that expired Dec. 31, 2008, remained in effect until the new contract was ratified last August.

“It’s procedural, but it’s important because if we win—and we think we will—it preserves our right to challenge the July layoffs,” Guild President Tom Spalding said. “Our goal is to get these people rehired. The first thing you do is defend the contract.”

In the midst of the most recent contract negotiation, last July 8 and 9, the Star laid off 14 people. The guild filed a grievance, saying the newspaper violated seniority rules in the cases of eight of the laid-off employees.

The Star rejected the grievance and later refused to go to arbitration, saying the arbitration provision of the old contract was not “evergreen.”

The complaint filed this month points out that the newspaper had continued to follow other provisions of the expired contract, including deducting union dues from members’ paychecks.

The summer layoffs followed 14 layoffs in December 2008. The union challenged the first round of layoffs and eventually won a small cash settlement for seven employees.

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