Avista Capital Partners’ ownership of the Star Tribune has been bruising
for the once-mighty workforce there. However, to date, despite the layoffs
and cutbacks, the forces of organized labor haven’t made much of a visible
ruckus against management. PIM hears that’s going to change today, as the
unions are beginning to realize that they need a public solidarity strategy
— a turn prompted by Avista’s new negotiating threat: its says if it
doesn’t get total concessions, the Star Tribune will file Chapter 7
bankruptcy on January 16th, according to one source.
“Theoretically” that’s what Avista says will happen, we hear, though we have
not yet been able to get first-hand confirmation of what Avista is telling
At a meeting Tuesday evening, folks from the major blocs of Strib employees
got together. Today they will kick off a pressure campaign against Avista,
led by the “Newspaper Workers Rank and File Solidarity Support
the Committee will take its case on the air on KFAI radio at 11 AM today;
more news expected at tdu.org.
Word of the Committee surfaced on Dec. 12th at the Teamsters for a
Democratic Union website, and an account of
dismal negotiations and an acrimonious company Christmas event from Dec.
23rd. The mailers, pressmen, drivers,
mechanics and electricians are all getting into the act. The mailers,
drivers and pressmen are Teamsters. Teamster units like the mailers face
wage cuts of 42%, and threats of Chapter 11 bankruptcy have already been in
The point of the effort is to build solidarity among the Strib unions. We
hear that if even one union fails to take what Avista offers, it’s
reportedly threatening to obliterate the metro’s biggest paper, though we
have not been able to confirm this.
In a sense, what remains of the old-school cadres might finally be ready to
throw down against Avista, which rode into town on a tidal wave of cheap
loans from Wall Street (that it’s now welching on). It’s said that a few
months ago, the union hardliners had little support; now union leadership is
The Newspaper Guild is looking at a wage freeze, while other unions have
been presented with up to 50% wage cuts. Pensions, vacations and health
benefits are all in the mix. While the Guild has relatively less harsh
measures coming at it, we hear its leadership is increasingly willing to
stand with the other Strib workers against Avista.
There’s a sense that the unknown Avista private equity firm has been getting
away with everything too easily, even though it has virtually no public
image associated with its myriad of energy and telecom holdings.
Much like Sam Zell has plunged Chicago’s Tribune Company empire into
Chapter 11 (despite its workable cash flow), another heavily leveraged paper
buyout has careened into an ocean of red ink and bad debt. We’ll share
what’s developing with our readers as we get more details confirmed. Story