Tribune Publishing is asking all of its full-time editorial staffers to consider voluntary buyouts at all nine major metro dailies in the chain, which is now controlled by the cost-slashing hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

But turmoil has erupted this week inside the News Guild, which represents eight of the nine major dailies and had been pushing for a national negotiating effort. Two major papers, the flagship Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, have opted not to join the negotiating committee.

The Daily News, which was spun off into a separate subsidiary called Daily News Enterprises, has been trying to negotiate better terms on its own. The Chicago Tribune, which is under the wider umbrella of Tribune Publishing, is doing the same in a move that apparently upset negotiators at the national Guild level.

“We continue to handle this as a Guild family as we fight for the best possible outcome for journalists and our members to save local news,” said a spokeswoman for the national News Guild-CWA. “We’re dedicated to the fight and are investing resources strategically across the Guild.”

Nevertheless, there are cracks opening in the union position after the national Guild on Wednesday said it was replacing the local Chicago negotiator who was spearheading a go-it-alone deal. That has triggered a local rebellion in Chicago, in part because the new local replacement Craig Rosenblum is unavailable for the next several days as the tense negotiations head to a showdown.

The local union that represents Chicago Tribune journalists elected this week to pursue its own buyout negotiations with the newspaper’s parent company, splintering off from the national guild.

“We have a situation in Chicago that should alarm each of you, even if you aren’t in agreement with our current position,” the Chicago union said in a Thursday memo. “The Guild has abandoned us and left us without representation at the bargaining table to punish us for a local decision.”

Heath Freeman, the president of Alden Global Capital who assumed the CEO job at Tribune publishing after firing Terry Jimenez, wants to push through the massive buyouts before the close of the Tribune fiscal quarter on June 30, sources tell Media Ink.

The unsolicited offer, which went out over union objections to all full-time editorial staffers on the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend, provides eight weeks severance for all staffers with three years or less of service. It provides 12 weeks for staffers with four or more years and then one additional week’s pay for each year of service.

Heath Freeman in a rare 2011 photo with wife Danyelle Freeman at a book launch party for “Try This” by Danyelle Freeman.

It is the same package that was offered to the non-unionized staffers on day two following the Alden takeover that was approved May 21 and became official at the close of markets on May 24.

The package is seen as favorable to younger employees while offering long-time veterans of 20 years would 30 percent less than they would get under more standard media severance packages that typically include two weeks’ pay for each year of service.

For example, a staffer with 20 years of experience under the proposal on the table would get 28 weeks severance pay. Under the more standard two weeks for every year package, he or she would receive 40 weeks’ pay.

Former Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett leads his former co-workers after a rally against the paper's ownership group, Alden Global Capital, Tuesday, May 8, 2018.
Former Denver Post editorial page editor Chuck Plunkett leads his former co-workers after a rally against the paper’s ownership group, Alden Global Capital, Tuesday, May 8, 2018.

Guild representatives at the Daily News briefed staffers via a memo late Wednesday. It revealed that in an informal survey to its embers, 55 respondents indicated they would not take the severance. The Guild represents about 65 newsroom journalists — all that remains after the previous ownership gutted the newsroom in a stunning bloodbath two years ago. At the time, the Daily News was not represented by the Guild.

In one caveat, the Guild revealed that the new ownership had agreed to give the COVID bonus payment to Daily News staffers, amounting to about one week’s pay. The previous ownership had given the bonus to all papers in the chain, but withheld it after the News journalists voted to be represented by the News Guild.

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