Page 10


JOURNAL `Failing Newspaper’ Scrutiny Sought U.S. Rep. John Bryant, D-Dallas, called on the U.S. Department of Justice to enforce federal antitrust laws and stop the takeover of the San Antonio Express-News and the Honolulu Advertiser by their competitors. “Just two weeks ago the Justice Department allowed the takeover and closure of the Tulsa Tribune by its competitor the latest of 17 daily newspaper closures in the past year in Louisiana, Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Texas, Tennessee, New Jersey, California, Florida, Oregon, Virginia, Alaska, Washington, New York, Georgia and Oklahoma,” Bryant said in a prepared statement. “Under the Bush Administration, the Justice Department has taken a totally passive approach toward the acquisitions, mergers and closures of daily newspapers, rather than acting aggressively to protect competition.” Bryant, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, last year launched an inquiry into the circumstances surrounding Justice Department approval of the takeover of the Dallas Times Herald by A.H. Belo Corp., which owns the Dallas Morning News, virtually every suburban newspaper in Dallas County and the largest TV station in the Dallas area. “As a result of these takeovers and mergers, in cities throughout America the situation has become like that in Dallas: There is only one place to advertise and one source of news. The price of newspaper advertising has increased dramatically and diversity of opinion has been eliminated. If you want to advertise, you have only one choice; if you want to read the news, you have only one source; if you want to speak out, there is only one outlet,” Bryant said. In San Antonio, he said, the Hearst Corp., one of America’s largest media conglomerates, which currently owns the Light as well as the Houston Chronicle and four other newspapers in Texas, proposes to purchase the San Antonio Express-News from Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., another huge media conglomerate \(See “Hearst is attempting to label its newspaper a `failing enterprise’ to produce a self-fulfilling prophecy so Hearst may be permitted to buy the competing Express-News. Hearst is really trying to buy a monopoly, not another newspaper. The result would put 600 employees out of work, rob America’s eighth largest city of newspaper competition, leave businesses with only one place to advertise and readers with only one source of news.” The Honolulu Star-Bulletin is also in danger as a result of a deal by Gannett Co., another media conglomerate, to buy the dominant competitor, the Honolulu Advertiser, Bryant said. “Today only 18 American cities still have fully competitive daily newspapers, with 18 others existing under joint operating agreements bined. And a number of those newspapers are in immediate jeopardy,” he said. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on Economic and Commercial Law, which has jurisdiction over antitrust matters and on which Bryant serves, will soon review Justice Department files relating to the purchase by the Dallas Morning News of the Dallas Times Herald, which stopped publishing last year, as well as filings which may lead to additional newspaper shutdowns. U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks, D-Beaumont, is considering Bryant’s request to hold hearings to investigate the question. Charles Dale, president of the Newspaper Guild international union, which represents editorial, clerical, pressroom maintenance and circulation truck drivers at the Light, welcomed the congressional attention, but he noted that elected officials are reluctant to move against powerful media owners. “Major newspaper owners seem to be able to get away with whatever the hell they want to do,” he said. Dale said union representatives and attorneys are still examining their options and said the union would be willing to invest in efforts to organize the Express-News or other remaining newspapers in Texas. “We’re going to try to organize that paper, but our experience in Texas is that we’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Hearst paper and we’ve been stymied over and over there,” with a management that has sought to decertify the unions and a National Labor Relations Board that under the Reagan and Bush administrations has been unfriendly to unions. Dale said it is difficult to organize in today’s troubled economy. “One hell of a lot of people are terrified by the economy and the reality is that there aren’t that many newspaper jobs and they perceive that this is a bad time to get involved in union organizing efforts because they might lose their jobs as a result.” But tough times are precisely the times that protection is needed, he said. “I would think it would be damned important for people at the Express-News to organize,” he said. Tom Honeycutt, president of Guild local 25 in San Antonio, said it is possible that the Express-News might organize because of the union history in San Antonio, but he questioned whether the international union would want to devote more money to save the union in Texas, a “right to work” state where conditions for unions are “difficult at best”; he believes Hearst would fight “tooth and nail” any attempt to organize the newly-acquired paper. The Guild has 80 locals that represent 40,000 employees at approximately 200 publications. J.C. Unions Win in East Texas After at least 18 failed attempts by various unions to organize Tyler Pipe Co., the United Rubber Workers parlayed a hometown advantage as employees at the Tyler plant recently voted 974-751 to accept the union as its bargaining agent. Labor officials hope the hard-fought victory, the largest in recent years, represents a turning point in industrial organizing in Texas after 12 years of union-bashing under the Reagan and Bush administrations. Danny Parker, president of Rubber Workers local 746, the union at the nearby KellySpringfield plant that assisted in organizing the Tyler Pipe plant, credited the involvement of other unions in the Tyler area with the success of the four-month organizing campaign, which diffused the usual management criticism that the organizers were outsiders. “This time they were dealing with neighbors, even family,” Parker said. A new local 1159 will represent workers at Tyler Pipe, which manufactures soil and drain pipes and associated fittings for the Dallas-based company. Ron Hoover, a representative of the Akron, Ohio-based international union who helped in the organizing and now is assisting in negotiating the first contract, said the company ran a “traditional” anti-union campaign, warning employees of the potential loss of benefits, for example, but Hoover added, “The company had a lot more integrity than a lot of companies I’ve dealt with…. They didn’t use the blatant lies that I’ve seen some companies use.” The union stressed the traditional issue: “Do people want to have a collective bargaining agreement so rights are protected and consistent,” Hoover said. “That’s really the issue.” Christopher Cook, a spokesman for the Texas AFL-CIO, said unions have had more success in organizing during the past year, winning approximately half of the dozen organizing drives. “We think it’s due to 12 years of Reagan and Bush administrations knocking out laws that protect workers and … not enforcing labor laws,” Cook said. “Conditions have degraded to the point where workers are fighting back.” While the rubber workers’ victory at Tyler Pipe fits the classic mold of organizing large plants, he said unions have seen more activity among service workers and government workers while other locals have had success in expanding their established unions. “Young people understand when they go to work for $5 an hour rather than the $10 or $12 an hour their dad or mom used to make it is not a temporary thing. That’s the way it’s supposed to be from now on.” J C THE TEXAS OBSERVER 13