Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Definition of Irony: Sam Zell Sues Former Tribune Shareholders for Money Owed

Does anyone remember what Sam Zell was reported to have told Tribune Co. shareholder employees around the time of his 2007 buyout of the company? No? Let's remind you: “I’ve said repeatedly that no matter what happens in this transaction, my lifestyle won’t change. Yours, on the other hand, could change dramatically if we get this right.” 

We now know that Zell didn't get it right and his lifestyle hasn't changed, if his recent purchase of the Elysian Hotel is any indication. But that didn't stop Zell from filing two lawsuits against former Tribune Co. shareholders to recoup $225 million.

The suits, filed by the Zell-controlled company EGI-TRB LLC, makes clear that Zell still believes the buyout was legitimate, but hedges his bets should a federal bankruptcy judge rule the buyout as fraudulent. 

Zell owns a $225 million Tribune note, which makes him a creditor and he wants to preserve his rights to collect what he can, should the judge rule the buyout was a fraudulent conveyance. It's a genius move, yet devilish at the same time.

Contact the author of this article or email with further questions, comments or tips.

Sam Zell sues former Tribune shareholders 

In a strange twist even by the standards of the tangled Tribune Co. bankruptcy, billionaire Sam Zell filed two suits against the company's former shareholders seeking to claw back proceeds from the failed leveraged buyout he led in 2007.

The suits, filed in Cook County Circuit Court by Zell affiliate EGI-TRB, piggyback on allegations by Tribune creditors that the debt-laden $8.2-billion buyout was a fraudulent conveyance, meaning it left the owner of the Los Angeles Times, KTLA Channel 5, Chicago Tribune and other media assets insolvent from the start.

That Zell is suing alongside the creditors is ironic given that he has been a principal target of their ire.

Creditors have contended that as architect of the deal and chairman of Tribune's board, Zell breached his fiduciary duty by pushing forward with the deal.

But because he owns a $225-million Tribune note, Zell is also a creditor and filed his suits Monday in that capacity.

The suits make plain Zell's belief that the fraudulent conveyance claims lack merit and that shareholders who benefited from the buyout should be entitled to their proceeds.

But if a judge were to disagree, Zell wants to preserve his rights as a creditor to collect his share of any claw-backs from shareholders, the suits said.

Zell attorney David Bradford said that his client's real aim in filing the suits is to gain leverage in his attempts to persuade the creditors to settle their disputes.

Monday, December 19, 2011


Women Retail Workers Deserve Equal Pay for Equal work! 

Retailers are paying female employees significantly less than male employees, according to new data released by the City University of New York and the Retail Action Project. Because retail is a growing industry that predominantly employs women, hundreds of thousands of women workers will be working long hours this holiday shopping season for less pay. 

When hundreds of stock, sales, cashier, and workers at national retail companies in New York City were recently surveyed about their wages and other benefits, it was discovered the median wage gap between women and men was the difference between $9.00/hr and $10.50/hr. For low-wage hourly workers, that difference of 14% adds up fast. Further, women were found to be less likely than male co-workers to be promoted, or to have health benefits. This has huge implications for women's health, as uninsured and underinsured women are less likely to receive routine care that can be lifesaving. Furthermore, taxpayers are subsidizing retail giants whose low-wage employees qualify for public benefits.
Please share this link with your friends and colleagues!

Carrie Gleason

Retail Action Project
140 West 31st Street 2nd floor
New York, NY, 10001

 We are starting a campaign to put pressure on many retail trades associations to address gender inequalities. Please take a moment to sign this petition and forward it on to your friends, peers and families.

Friday, December 16, 2011

If you’re in New York on Dec. 17 and 18, and if you like either my writing on pop culture and economic inequality and the recession, or you like progressivism and online organizing, you should come to Netroots New York. I’ll be speaking at lunch on Dec. 17, and the list of speakers and panels is impressive and getting bigger every day. For those of you who haven’t been, I found my trip to Netroots in Minnesota this summer to be really useful spur to my thinking, both politically and artistically: the posts I’ve written about Muslim archetypes in popular culture and Joe Arpaio as performance artist came out of sessions I attended there. And Netroots New York has a good deal on now: if you pay the full registration fee of $100, someone else can register with you for $25.
And since I’m going to be in town, how about a New York commenter meetup? If you actually go to the conference, I will buy you a drink. If you don’t, you should come out anyway. Let’s say 7:30 on Saturday, Dec. 17, with a tentative location of Union Square. If someone has bar recommendations in the area, holler. Otherwise, I’ll pick something. And let me know in comments if you think you’ll be there.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CUNY SPS Spotlights Robert Daraio MALS Graduate

The SPS Alumni Connect E-Bulletin

The monthly newsletter for SPS Graduates

This month we would like to spotlight, Bob Daraio, an alumnus of the Labor Studies graduate degree program. 

Masters in Labor Studies alumnus Robert Daraio '11 was elected in November to the five-person Board of Trustees for the Village of Ossining, New York, a community of 25,000 people an hour north of New York City. Filling one of two vacant seats, Daraio begins his two-year term on January 1, 2012.
Daraio was one of 15 students in the first graduating class of the MALS program at the Joseph S. Murphy Institute, part of the CUNY School of Professional Studies.
"My experience at Murphy is certainly part and parcel of what prepared me for the job," said Daraio. 
As a Trustee he will work with the Mayor of Ossining to consolidate public service departments—a process that includes renegotiating contracts with the workers' unions.
Daraio began his studies at the Murphy Institute in 2010, after retiring from a 33 year career as a television broadcast engineer. Being active in the three unions that represent workers in the technical fields of the entertainment industry, IATSE, IBEW, and NABET-CWA, showed him how much more there was to learn about labor unions and their history.
"I didn't know nearly enough," he said. "Murphy was exactly what I needed for that." For his Master's thesis Daraio proposed a reorganization of the labor unions representing television workers to respond to the new shape of the industry.
Daraio also learned a lesson in solidarity: his candidacy had the overwhelming support of local unions and the Westchester-Putnam Central labor Body..
"I just can't thank everybody at Murphy enough,"Daraio said. "I know the friends I made there will always be in my life."
Congratulations Bob! 
 BIO:  Bob Daraio is the Recording Secretary for the New York Broadcast Trades Council, an organization made up of unions with collective bargaining agreements with N.Y. broadcast TV stations. Bob represents NABET-CWA Local 16 on the New York City Central Labor Council-AFL-CIO.
Bob is the moderator of Broadcast Union News, a clearing center for information of interest to people working in television, film, print/electronic media, and theater. A place where AEA, AFTRA, IATSE, IBEW, CWA-NABET, DGA, SAG, Newspaper Guild, WGA, and non-represented entertainment industry workers can share information with an eye towards improving wages, benefits, and working conditions for all.

Robert Daraio worked at WPIX as a staff video engineer from June 1999 to May 2010, following a 22-year career as a freelance camera, robotics, video, audio, and videotape technician. His news, sports, and entertainment clients include CBS, NBC, FOX5, TBS, ABC, UPN9, WPIX, WNET, MSG, CNN, CNNfn, HBO, Showtime, MTV, VH1, CTW, NEP, Unitel, MTI, ESPN, and the National Geographic Society.

Bob has been a video assist technician for hundreds of commercials and coordinated video effects for feature films including the Rozie Perez and Patti Lupone independent film, “24 Hour Woman” and “For Love Of The Game” with Kevin Costner for Universal Pictures.

In 2002 the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences honored Bob for his video and robotic camera work on the Emmy Award winning “The WB11 News At 10”.
As an IATSE Local One stagehand, bob served as a swing props, electrics, and deck sound Tech for the Broadway productions of "She Loves Me" and "Company".

As a trade unionist, Bob has served as an IBEW Local 1212 Shop Steward, and on the NABET Local 15 and IATSE Local 644 and 600 Executive Boards. He served two terms on the New York City Central Labor Council of the AFL/CIO . Bob is one of an elite few who have held elective office in all three of New York’s film, television, and theatrical, technical employee unions.

Bob graduated in the 1st 4-year class in Theatre Technology with a BFA from SUNY Purchase. and did graduate work at NYU in Arts Administration. Recently he graduated on June 7, 2011 with an MA in Labor Studies program from the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education.

Bob spent his summers during college traveling with "The Circus Kingdom", a youth circus program run by Rev. L.David Harris made up of college students from across the U.S.A. that toured throughout the U.S. and Canada. During his senior year at Purchase, Bob founded "The No Elephant Circus". TNEC operated under the Actor's Equity Association Theatre For Young Audience contract from 1977 to 1990, touring an average of 126 cities in 15 States annually.

Bob is a Coast Guard Licensed Master of 50 Ton Vessels with the Sail and Towing Endorsements, a U.S. Coast Guard certified Port Engineer, and a Coast Guard Auxiliary Boat Crew member and Vessel Examiner..

Bob is a member of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary, and is a Trustee of the Village of Ossining, New York, where he lives with his wife Gayle, an IATSE Local 764 member working in wardrobe for Broadway, TV, and film. Gayle is currently on the running crew of "Sister Act".

SPS Alumni are doing amazing things all of the time. If you would like to nominate a fellow alum or yourself to feature, please email Kareem Mumford, Marketing and Outreach Associate, at, with the subject line: Alumni Spotlight.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Crazy Day at NLRB: Shutdown Averted, Boeing Case Settled

WASHINGTON D.C.—In one of the most tense votes ever held in the history of the National Labor Relations board, today the federal agency voted to proceed with enacting a new rule to curtail employers’ ability to appeal workplace unionization elections before they are held.The tension was in part due to GOP NLRB Member Brian Hayes threat to resign in protest of the vote, as I reported last week

His resignation would have effectively shut down the agency, because it would have lost a quorum of members needed to issue rulings.

The NLRB voted to move forward with a limited portion of a union election reform rule  related to eliminating pre-union election voter eligibility determination appeals that currently delay union elections. Under the rule, such appeals would be held after a union election is already held. Now the rule will be prepared for final “publication,” after which time it will be voted on again.

“The vast majority of NLRB-supervised elections, about 90 percent, are held by agreement of the parties—employees, union and employer—in an average of 38 days from the filing of a petition. The amendments I propose would not affect those agreed-to elections” NLRB Chairman Mark Pearce said today. He continued:
Rather, the amendments would apply to the minority of elections which are held up by needless litigation and disputes which need not be resolved prior to an election. In these contested elections, employees have to wait an average of 101 days to cast a ballot. And as several employees testified at our hearing in July, that period can be disruptive and painful for all involved.
Hayes had threatened to resign because he felt that the process and traditions of the NLRB were not being followed in the run up to consideration of the rule change. He said was not consulted properly as the agency reviewed 65,000 comments received about the rule, and that he did not have proper time to issue a dissenting rule change, among other things.

Hayes later explained why he did not resign from the NLRB, saying, “First, it’s not in my nature to be obstructionist. Second, as a practical matter, my resignation might not mute the issue."

Lastly, however, and most importantly, I believe resignation would cause the very same harm and collateral damage to the reputation of this agency and to the interests of its constituents as would the issuance of a controversial rule without three affirmative votes and in the wake of a flawed decisional process. I cannot be credibly critical of the latter and engage myself in the former.”

Polarizing Boeing case finally settled

In other news—but very much related to the NLRB being a target of Republicans—the Machinists Union (IAM) and Boeing have settled their dispute, which resulted in a high-profile NLRB complaint filed against Boeing for illegal retaliation against striking union members. The IAM and the company reached agreement on a new four-year contract, which contains language ensuring that production of the 737 Max airliner will be in Renton, Wash.

IAM District Lodge 751 President Tom Wroblewski said that “if union members vote to approve the deal in the coming weeks, the union would inform the NLRB that it has no further grievances with Boeing,” the AP reported. The contract agreement was reached 10 months before the union’s current contract with Boeing expires, which is highly unusual. The contract also reportedly allows for pay and benefit increases over its four years.

NLRB General Counsel Lafe Solomon said: “The tentative agreement announced today between Boeing and the Machinists Union is a very significant and hopeful development. The tentative agreement is subject to ratification by the employees, and, if ratified, we will be in discussions with the parties about the next steps in the [complaint] process.”

A Boeing spokesman “called the new contract with the union ‘a starting point of a new relationship’ with the union,” the AP reported.

If the union drops its lawsuit against Boeing, the NLRB will almost definitely stop pursuing its complaint against the company.

However, Capitol Hill observers still expect congressional Republicans to continue issuing attacks on the NLRB. “The war against the workers’ rights has been going on for more than a year and I do not think they will stop,” said Aaron Albright, a spokesman for Democrats on the House Education and Workforce Committee. “I do not think they will stop their obsession with breaking up workers’ unions.”

Mike Elk
Earlier in the day, at a special forum on the attacks on the National Labor Relations Board and workers’ rights sponsored by the National Labor Relations Board, University of Texas Labor Law Professor Jules Getman said the attack on the NLRB was “an almost brilliant strategy by the right wing. Attacks on workers are unpopular as in Ohio, but attacks on governments are fairly popular. So if you can make it about government, you can succeed in taking away the rights of workers.”

Mike Elk is an In These Times Staff Writer and a regular contributor to the labor blog Working In These Times. He can be reached at

Talking Union is a project of the labor network of Democratic Socialists of America. We will report on the activities and views of DSA and Young Democratic Socialists of America labor activists. We seek to be a place for a broad range of labor activists to discuss ideas for the renewal and strengthening of the labor movement. If you’d like to submit an article or blog post, email us at Tell us a little about yourself, too. Posts represent the opinion of their author and not necessarily those of the Talking Union blog, the DSA labor network, or Democratic Socialists of America. To join DSA, click here.
DSA members, join the DSA Labor discussion list.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Update Shows Donnelly, Daraio, Quezada, Tawil Won, Dems Sweep In Ossining

The Daily Ossining

Ossining's New Trustees Manuel Quezada and Robert Daraio

OSSINING, N.Y. – Sue Donnelly won the town supervisor race, Robert Daraio and Manuel Quezada won the village trustees race and John Fried and Mike Tawil won the town justices race, updated tallies from the county Board of Elections show.

Sue Donnelly and Catherine Borgia
According to the updated Board of Elections website, Donnelly, a Democrat, got 2,682 out of 5,162, or 52 percent of votes, while Republican opponent Peter Tripodi IV got 2,480, or 48 percent of votes for town supervisor.

Tripodi said he was still waiting for more accurate numbers to come in before he makes any comment on winning or losing. 

"Those are the numbers that were called out by the people at the polling places. The Ossining clerk's numbers are different and more accurate," said Tripodi. "I'm going to wait for everything to come in before I say anything." 

Tripodi said that Town Clerk Mary Ann Roberts' numbers showed Donnelly got 170 more votes than him and there were 185 absentee ballots that haven't been counted yet.

In the race for two village trustee seats, Democrat Robert Daraio got 1,525 out of 5,507, or 28 percent of votes, and running mate Manuel Quezada got 1,495, or 27 percent of votes, according to the county Board of Elections. 

Republican opponent Robert Fritsche got 1,243, or 23 percent of votes and Republican Robert Terilli got 1,244, or 23 percent of votes. 

Newly Elected Ossining trustee Manuel Quezada
Quezada is the first Ecuadorean ever to hold an elected office in Westchester and he said he is excited about winning. 

"I'm looking forward to move forward to make a better community for everybody," he said. "One of the things I'm going to do is go to meetings, the majority of them in which the budget will be discussed, and try to learn and understand the financial situation of the village of Ossining. I'm going to take it step by step at first." 

Newly Elected Judge Mike Tawil
In the race between three candidates for two town justice seats, the county Board of Elections website shows that incumbent John Fried got 4,643 out of 9,721, or 48 percent of votes, while Mike Tawil got 2,582, or 27 percent of votes, and John Mangialardi got 2,496, or 26 percent of votes. 

"I'm cautiously optimistic that the numbers will remain in my favor," said Tawil, who was endorsed by the Democrats. "I want to thank everyone who came out for me in the elections. It was pretty tough with only one line, but I think I pulled it off." 

Broadcast Union News Note: In Westchester's 9th District, Catherine Borgia (D), Ossining Town Supervisor won the County Legislator seat with 55% of the vote over former Croton Trustee Sue Konig who received 45%.

Eric Blaha, Geoff Harter, Bob Daraio, and Manuel Quezada on election night
In the election for Ossining Town Council, 20 year incumbent Geoff Harter (D) with 28% and newcomer  Eric Blaha (D) with 27% won over their Republican challengers  Kim Izzarelli(R) and Steve Dewey, who each garnered 23% of votes in the race for the two Town Council spots.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Robert Daraio wins Ossining Trustee Election

Well the election is over, Manny Quezada and I won the two open Village Trustee spots in Ossining.. The Ossining Dems took 8 of 9 races this year. Below are the Trustee numbers.

Ossining Village Trustee Vote Count

Daraio                        1525   28%

Quezada                     1495  27%

Terelli                          1244  23%

Fritsche                       1243  23%


I would like to thank Mayor Bill Hanauer, Town Supervisor Catherine Borgia, Katie Goriycki, Thomasina Laidley, Bill Burton, the Ossining Democratic Committee, all the fabulous Blitz Kids, my fellow candidates, family, friends, and supporters for a great campaign.   

Thank you to all the professors, staff, and fellow students at the CUNY Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies program for helping to fill the gaps in my skill set and prepare me for the new challenges ahead. You patience and insight is appreciated far more than I can say.

Newly Elected Ossining Trustees Manuel Quezada and Bob Daraio

I also would like to take a moment to thank all the AEA, AFTRA, DGA, IATSE, IBEW, NABET-CWA, and WGAE Brothers and Sisters who endorsed and supported my campaign, both personally and financially. I'd also like to thank the Westchester-Putnam Central Labor Body for their endorsement. 

The labor movement can take back the Democratic Party and get a real voice in government only by running labor candidates. Three out of five Trustees in Ossining are now trade unionists. Solidarity!


Bob Daraio, Trustee
Village of Ossining

Robert R. Daraio 

Recording Secretary
New York Broadcast Trades Council
NABET-CWA Local 16

Monday, October 31, 2011

Judge Rejects Both Tribune Bankruptcy Plans

By Lucas Shaw
The Wrap

U.S. bankruptcy judge Kevin J. Carey has rejected Tribune Co.’s plan for reorganizing the company so that it can emerge from bankruptcy. A rival proposal from Tribune creditors did not pass muster either.

Tribune, a media empire that includes newspapers like the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, as well as more than 20 broadcasting properties, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December of 2008. That came a year after real-estate tycoon Sam Zell took the company private.

Carey began his 126-page opinion with a story, “The Scorpion and the Fox.” He said there is no moral to it, but that it reveals an “inescapable facet of human character: the willingness to visit harm upon others, even at one’s own peril.”

He then detailed the many ways in which neither plan could settle a dispute that is now almost three years old, and threatened to appoint a trustee to resolve the  case if neither side can reach a suitable resolution.

Under both plans, JP Morgan and other lenders would be the majority owners.

Judge rejects reorganization plans for Tribune

BY DAVID ROEDER, Business Reporter 
Chicago Sun-Times   
October 31, 2011

Because of a ruling issued on Halloween, Tribune Co.’s “deal from hell” lives on.

A federal bankruptcy judge Monday rejected two competing plans for the reorganization of Tribune, the Chicago-based publishing and broadcasting company that was driven into Chapter 11 by mogul Sam Zell’s ill-timed and over-leveraged buyout. 

Zell called the $8.2 billion sale the “deal from hell” upon its consummation in 2007.

But that was before the real fun even started. A year later, the Tribune, saddled with $13 billion in debt and with advertising in a steep, industry-wide fall, filed for bankruptcy. In the three years since then, creditors have wrestled over who gets what in a reorganized company and how to handle lawsuits against the parties who approved the original deal.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey said in a 126-page opinion that he could approve neither of the two plans presented to him. His ruling suggested that the company could be in for months of costly court proceedings and uncertainty about its fate. Many observers suspect that when creditors do get control, they will break up its properties and perhaps sell the broadcast stations, which generate the bulk of the profit.

But Carey tried to downplay any conclusion that his ruling would invite more delay. The Tribune, he wrote, “must promptly find an exit door to this Chapter 11 proceeding. The court is equally resolute that, if a viable exit strategy does not present itself with alacrity, and despite any disruption to management, as well as the added cost and delay this might inevitably occasion, the court intends to consider, on its own motion, whether a Chapter 11 trustee should be appointed.”

Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, other major newspapers and more than 20 broadcasting stations, including WGN television and radio. Company spokesman Gary Weitman said late Monday, “We are reviewing the judge’s decision and will have no comment until we have finished studying it.”

Both completing plans would have left Tribune under the control of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and hedge funds Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Oaktree Capital Management, the leading unsecured creditors. But a plan advocated by other debt holders, including Aurelius Capital Management LP, seeks to recover more money in litigation. 

Aurelius is known for playing legal hardball.

Aurelius was emboldened by the findings of a court-appointed examiner, who ruled last year that part of the Zell buyout may have been a “fraudulent conveyance” that automatically rendered Tribune bankrupt.

Carey rejected both plans for several reasons, some technical, but spoke more favorably of the leading creditors’ proposal. He said it provides Tribune “with more certainty regarding preservation of estate value and a better foundation for revitalizing business operations.”

A hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 22 in Wilmington, Del.

NBC’s 10 Owned Stations Growing Newsgathering; 130+ New Jobs Planned

By Chris Ariens on October 31, 2011

NBC Universal has announced it is hiring for more than 130 positions across the 10 Owned & Operated stations.

“People will always need local news and information. How they get it will change,” says Valari Staab, president of the NBC Owned Television Stations group. “Television has shown it’s done nothing but increase, not decline, with what’s happening with the Internet.”

Ahead of Comcast’s acquisition of NBCU earlier this year, the companies met with the FCC to explain their commitment to local news. In part, the company agreed to, “maintain at least the current level of news and information programming on NBC’s and Telemundo’s owned-and-operated (“O&O”) broadcast stations, and in some cases expand news and other local content.”

Staab, who was named president of the NBC Owned Television Stations group in April, announced what the expansion means:

Jim Watkins Offically Out at WPIX in New York

By Merrill Knox on October 28, 2011

Nearly a month after FishbowlNY reported Jim Watkins was out the door at New York City CW-affiliate WPIX, the station has finally confirmed the longtime anchor’s departure.

“Jim Watkins and WPIX-TV have decided to end their relationship after 13 years and three Best Newscast Emmy Awards,” WPIX said in a statement.

The station has disputed the original report that Watkins had been fired and was no longer welcome in the WPIX building. For more details, visit FishbowlNY.

Anchor Jim Watkins Officially Ends Association With WPIX

By Jerry Barmash on October 28, 2011

The worst kept secret has finally been made official today. Veteran WPIX anchor Jim Watkins has left Channel 11 as FishbowlNY reported exclusively on September 30.
The station, in a statement, announced a parting of company with its longtime anchor, without explaining why.

“Jim Watkins and WPIX-TV have decided to end their relationship after 13 years and three Best Newscast Emmy Awards. PIX11 salutes Watkins’ years of service to the station and to the community during his time as a valued newscaster at the station.  Jim bids a fond farewell to his many PIX co-workers over the years, especially Kaity Tong.”

It’s a different tone than we reported last month, when multiple sources said Watkins was fired earlier, and he was not permitted back in the building.

News director Bill Carey, though, was quick to squelch our report, saying Watkins “remains employed by WPIX.”

As Tong immediately assumed Watkins weekend anchor duties, people with knowledge of the situation told FishbowlNY that his name remained on the station’s weekly schedule.

However, sources have maintained that Watkins was dismissed.

FishbowlNY has made several attempts to speak with Watkins throughout this four-week ordeal. Once again, though, our interview request was turned down today.

Watkins joined WPIX in 1998, and had co-anchored the weeknight newscasts until Jodi Applegate was hired in October 2010.

Friday, October 28, 2011

VIDEO - Fox NY News Crew Beaten By Police While Covering Occupy Wall Street - #OWS

Here's footage of last Wednesday night's NYPD melee near Wall Street.  This clip provides a timeline and explains how the situation turned violent.  Runs 90 seconds.

Source - Media Bistro

A WNYW-Fox news crew was maced and beaten by police on Wednesday night while covering the Occupy Wall Street protests.

Reporter Dick Brennan and photographer Roy Isen got caught in the middle of an altercation between police officers and a group of protesters, at the end of a day spent covering the ongoing demonstrations in lower Manhattan.  Brennan was struck in the stomach with a baton and Isen was hit in the eyes with pepper spray.

“Since the arrests over the weekend, these demonstrations have been mostly peaceful.  That’s until tonight,” Brennan reported.  “And I can tell you because my photographer and I got caught in the middle of things when the pepper spray and the night sticks started flying.”

Related Stories:

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Stop Police Attacks On Working Journalists

By now, much of the nation has seen stories and images from this week's Occupy Oakland protests, which ended with police in riot gear and protestors struggling through clouds of tear gas.

Less visible is what happens at the other end of the lens: The working journalists, both freelance and staff, who put themselves in harm's way to ensure the story reached the larger public.

Journalists know that their jobs can be dangerous. What they don't expect is to be detained, attacked or otherwise interfered with by police -- as happened to at least three journalists in Oakland this week. All were clearly wearing press passes and carrying professional photo gear.

Please stand with working journalists and tell Oakland officials that this is unacceptable: Police must learn to recognize and respect a press pass.

Click through to send a letter to City Hall, and please help us spread the word by forwarding this e-mail, or by tweeting or sharing the link on Facebook.

The Newspaper Guild • 501 3rd Street NW • Washington, DC 20001 • 202-434-1100

Huge NLRB Victory Restores Union Rights to NABET-CWA Represented NBC 'Content Producers'

In a resounding victory for NABET-CWA members, an NLRB ruling out of Region 2 in New York City orders NBC to reinstate the bargaining rights of "content producers," a title the network created three years ago to strip union representation from nearly 100 photographers, editors and writers.
"On behalf of our affected members and their families, we are extremely pleased with this outcome," NABET-CWA President Jim Joyce said. "NBC wasted shameful amounts of money to pay for outside legal counsel and consultants just so that it could take away union-negotiated wages and benefits from its workers, many of whom have been loyal NBC employees and NABET-CWA members for years."
NBC tried to claim that it was consolidating work and creating new, non-union jobs. But the ruling said testimony at hearings this year in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C., made it clear that so-called content producers were doing the same work they'd always done, just with a different title.
 "The evidence warrants the conclusion that content producers perform the same basic functions previously performed by bargaining unit employees," said Elbert Tellem, NLRB acting director for Region 2 (New York).
Because NABET-CWA filed the cases as "unit clarification," NBC has limited rights of appeal. Procedure allows for a full NLRB hearing but no further appeals in federal court, Joyce said.

The decision affects both NABET members who lost their bargaining rights, as well as new employees hired as content producers. Their rights are expected to be restored without delay, Joyce said, even while NBC pursues an NLRB appeal. Content producers at NBC and NBC-owned stations in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles are directly affected by the ruling.

The decision comes as NABET and NBC begin the fourth year of negotiations for a new contract. In August, NABET members overwhelmingly rejected an NBC proposal that would have rolled back seniority and benefit provisions, among other concessions.
The NLRB ruling that will restore union rights to about 100 NBC content producers was a big boost this week for NABET-CWA members as they continue their fight for a fair contract at the network. Pictured are Local 52031 members outside the Washington, D.C., studios.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Judge OKs $32 Million Settlement for Tribune Employees in the Defunked ESOP

A federal judge has granted preliminary approval of the $32 million settlement — announced in August — for former Los Angeles Times auto writer Dan Neil and Tribune employees. The final hearing is set for January 30. The plaintiffs contended that the leveraged buyout that resulted in creation of an employee ownership plan violated federal pension law. Tribune staffers became owners of the company when it was taken private by Sam Zell in 2007. The company filed for bankruptcy protection one year later.

Plaintiffs’ press release

Hundreds Of Writers, Editors And Other Employees Will Recapture Money For Their Employee Stock Ownership Plan
CHICAGO – Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois granted preliminary approval of a $32 million settlement in the class action case of Dan Neil, et al. v. Samuel Zell, et al. The defendants in this case are GreatBanc Trust Company, Samuel Zell and EGI-TRB, LLC. Tribune Company was dropped from the case after its bankruptcy filing, but they are a party to the settlement. The Tribune Company includes the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, other major newspaper and media outlets. The final hearing on the settlement is on January 30, 2012.

The lawsuit, which was filed in November 2008 following the purchase of the Tribune Co. by Sam Zell and his company, raised claims on behalf of participants and beneficiaries of the Tribune Company Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). 

The lawsuit challenged the Leveraged ESOP buy-out of the company. The complaint alleged Defendants breached their fiduciary duties by causing the ESOP to pay more than fair market value for the Tribune stock purchased in April, 2007 by Sam Zell. 

Also alleged was that Defendants caused the ESOP to purchase unregistered stock at a time when the Tribune stock was trading on the public market and engaged in prohibited transactions under ERISA. 

The U.S. Department of Labor commenced an investigation of the Leveraged ESOP Transaction and asserted claims against Tribune which were also raised. 

Under the terms of the settlement, Tribune and GreatBanc will collectively pay the settlement amount of $32 million to the employees in the ESOP. The suit was handled by Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy of Burlingame, Meites, Mulder & Glink of Chicago, and Lewis, Fineberg, et al., of Oakland. 

The lead plaintiffs were Dan Neil, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist formerly with the Los Angeles Times, and Eric Bailey, also a former Los Angeles Times journalist. Hundreds of writers, editors and other employees will recapture money for their ESOP.

Phil Gregory of Cotchett, Pitre & McCarthy, LLP said, “This is a wonderful vindication for all the newspaper people who dedicate their careers to journalism only to have their retirement plans diminished by unscrupulous purchasers of their papers.”

The Case is Dan Neil, et al. v. Sam Zell, et al. (08-cv-06833) ND. ILL.