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TNI-Labor Rematch

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Officials from the union that represents pressroom employees at Tucson Newspapers will not contest the results of a Feb. 22 election to organize distribution center employees.

Instead, officials of Local 58-M of the Graphic Communications International Union say they'll try again, and plan to seek worker support for a new election that could be held as early as September.

The union, which lost the 37-26 vote, initially challenged the results and filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board accusing TNI--the agency that handles advertising, business, circulation and printing for the Arizona Daily Star and Tucson Citizen--of trying to intimidate workers during the election. Last fall, TNI officials signed an NLRB consent decree promising that it would not harass mailroom workers about the election. But the GCIU withdrew the complaint, because the national board, which reviews complaints and decisions, has a case backlog of at least two years.

No efforts to organize the mailroom workers could be made while an appeal is pending.


MEANWHILE, AT A NEARBY TABLE

TNI's three-year contract with the GCIU's pressroom workers will expire soon, and union officials are waiting to see what the prelude from management will be.

When talks opened on the current contract, the union filed an unfair practices complaint against TNI over the company's efforts at encouraging workers to ask the National Labor Relations Board to authorize a decertification vote.

But Lee Enterprises' pending takeover of the Arizona Daily Star's corporate parent, St. Louis-based Pulitzer Inc., is a wild card in the talks. Pulitzer ceded a great deal of control over TNI to the Tucson Citizen's corporate overseer, Gannett, when the companies agreed to rewrite the joint agency agreement about 15 years ago. However, St. Louis-based Pulitzer started to take things in Tucson more seriously in 1998 after the company sold its broadcasting division to focus on buying newspapers.

TNI president Mike Jameson is a Lee alumnus.

Not much is known about Lee's recent track record on dealing with unions. However, the company's Web site does recount the company dealing with a printers' strike in 1952. The strike was one of the first showdowns between newspapers and unions. It also was one of the first disputes that involved technology displacing human labor, as one of the core issues involved the printers' refusal to accept wire stories that were set into type via coded paper tape instead of by human typesetters.


COMPOSING ONESELF

Local classical music aficionados will recognize the name Kenneth LaFave, either for his work as the Arizona Daily Star's classical music critic a couple of decades or so ago, or for his symphonic compositions.

Ken popped up on the radar screen recently. He's bowed out of newspaper work after some 15 years of covering the classical music scene in Phoenix, initially at the now-defunct Phoenix Gazette, and for the Arizona Republic since 1994.

He left the Republic last month. Here's what he has to say about the departure. "The Arizona Republic and I parted ways in the wake of various policy changes instituted by Gannett after its purchase of the paper in the year 2000. Over the past few years, I had been given an increasing number of assignments off my beat (classical music and dance) including such things as frozen food, talk-show hosts, lumber and the 2005 Mustang. Meanwhile, I was continuing to compose music as I always have, often for local organizations. Gannett policy saw this as a conflict of interest. In March, I was told I would be off the arts entirely and made to write pop culture bits. One editor told me: 'When Janet Jackson has her next costume malfunction, you'll be writing about it.' That wasn't the future I wanted, so I chose another: composing and freelancing. I'm currently working on two major compositions: a one-act opera called American Gothic, and a concerto for electric guitar and symphonic band. Both are scheduled to premiere in November at Arizona State University. I have a Web site (www.kennethlafave.com) where you can hear some of my music and commission a new piece if you'd like. I'm also writing program notes for The New York Philharmonic and The Philadelphia Orchestra, among others. I'm having fun."


WHY EDITORS DRINK

When the corpse of Proper English is autopsied, the examiners will probably rank "decades of media abuse" among the key factors in its demise. Related to that will be the failure of police reporters to translate cop jargon into something that makes sense to most newspaper readers.

The story in the Arizona Daily Star's April 5 edition about the stabbing death at Tucson Mall is one of those examples.

There are some solid editors on the Star's payroll, folks who offered me more than a few lessons on making bad writing good, and good writing better. I guess they were on vacation or on a break when this story crossed various desks. Here's the second paragraph: "They (police) responded to the mall, 4500 N. Oracle Road, shortly before 8 p.m. after an argument involving at least two people ended with the unidentified man being stabbed in the parking lot of the Dillard's store, said Sgt. Kerry Fuller, a Tucson Police Department spokeswoman."

What's this "responded to the mall" thing? Did the mall talk to officers? I don't care if there is a song called "If These Old Walls Could Talk"; the cops didn't "respond to the mall." They went to the mall.

The next paragraph contains one of those "stop while you're ahead" lines: "An off-duty sheriff's deputy called police and tried to help the injured man, who died despite his efforts." The story established the death in the lead paragraph; "who died despite his efforts" is redundant and gives the story just a little heartlessness.

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