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Sun-Times Deal May Go Through After All

By Kevin Robinson in News on Oct 8, 2009 1:40PM

Photo by David Paul Ohmer.
Last month, the members of the Chicago Newspaper Guild voted down a proposal by James Tyree, a deal with the devil which would have gutted the union in exchange for his buying the bankrupt media group. Late yesterday afternoon it was announced that the guild had reached an agreement with Tyree, in spite of his claims that he would withdraw his bid and that the "concessions are an absolute prerequisite from all 18 collective bargaining units for a proposed sale." While the agreement, which the membership voted on yesterday afternoon and evening, means significant pay cuts, Jim Newton, chair of the Waukegan Unit of the Guild said that the agreement "demonstrate[s] our commitment to [the paper] and our craft.... We look forward to helping this new venture not only maintain but improve our presence in the local and regional media market."

Assuming that all parties acquiesce to the agreement and the bankruptcy judge approves the sale in court today, Tyree will take control of the company. The union agreement eight weeks of severance for workers who lose their jobs in the first six months after Tyree gains control of the company and that that workers must be let go for cause, both of which are designed to ensure that Tyree and his management team don't clear the newsroom of the most senior union members. "There's a lot of sacrifice in it, a lot of trust," Tom Thibeault, executive director of the Guild said. "Our members certainly are looking at the economic times. We want the Sun-Times to continue on."

One wrinkle to the sale that may come up today is Lisle-based investment manager Thane Ritchie. Ritchie wants to put together a group of bidders representing unsecured creditors to make a play for the paper. That group would include the Chicago Newspaper Guild, but Ritchie says he was told that it was against federal labor laws for him to talk to the bid. He plans to ask the union to request that the judge keep the bidding process open for another 30 days so he can make an alternative offer with the Guild. Thibeault says that he told Ritchie that the Guild won't make that request, as "we're not involved in that process at all."