Union stages walk-out at Village Voice

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Newspaper racks for the Village Voice. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
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Unionized Village Voice employees are in contract negotiations with management, and once again it's a standoff.

Employees of the weekly newspaper who belong to UAW Local 2110 have planned a walk-out at noon followed by an hour-long demonstration outside the Voice's lower Manhattan headquarters.

With their current contract up in July, they say they want "better pay, better working conditions, particularly for our overburdened sales staff, and to keep our healthcare coverage," according to a press release circulated this morning by the Village Voice Bargaining Unit.

Management for the Voice, which is owned by the Phoenix-based Voice Media Group, a national chain of about a dozen alternative newsweeklies, have proposed a contract that would raise salaries by only $10 a week while increasing health care costs by at least $200 a month, halving family leave time, easing the rules governing firings and slashing severance payments in half for senior employees, the bargaining unit said.

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It's unclear how many Voice employees are represented by the union or what the current salaries and health care costs are. Union reps did not immediately return an email.

"We're very upset," the press release read in part. "These proposals aren't just bad for current Voice employees, but bad for anyone who might work here in the future. It's a rotten deal, and we won't accept it."

Spokespeople for a communications firm that had recently been handling Voice Media Group's P.R. did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

“I’m not going to comment about ongoing negotiations," Voice editor-in-chief Tom Finkel told Capital.

Tensions between management and Voice employees have been running high ever since the paper was sold in 2005 to a company that was then called New Times Media.

New Times later became Village Voice Media, which has since morphed into the entity now known as Voice Media Group.

The Voice has weathered heavy downsizing and layoffs over the past several years.

UPDATE: Eden Schulz, the paper's union rep, said that between 25 and 30 employees, including newsroom, sales and marketing staff, are members of UAW Local 2110. Union salaries range from $34,000 to $65,000, or about $45,000 on average, she said.

"The payroll has gone down significantly because the Voice systematically laid off the long-term writers who were able to command higher salaries due to their prestige and name recognition," said Schulz.

Employees do not currently contribute toward their healthcare premiums, and the proposed contract would require them to pay 48 percent of the premium, she said.