Look for the union label ... on your newspaper?

Posted: January 15, 2014

FOR MONTHS, a union representing 550 employees at the Daily News, Inquirer and Philly.com has remained neutral as a civil war raged among the investors who own the media outlets.

Yesterday, Local 38010 of the Newspaper Guild sought to become a player in the endgame.

The guild asked a Philadelphia Common Pleas judge to allow it and unnamed financial backers to participate in an auction of the company's assets.

One faction of the owners, led by Lewis Katz, asked the court on Jan. 2 to approve a public auction to sell the company.

Another faction, led by George Norcross III, responded a day later by asking the Chancery Court in Delaware, where the company was incorporated in 2012, to approve a private auction open only to the current investors.

The guild, representing employees in the newsrooms and other departments, wants a role in either a public or private auction.

In an email to members, the union said it "has already been contacted by at least one potential outside bidder for the company interested in teaming with us."

Lisa Lori, an attorney for the union, declined to identify the potential bidding partners or say how many there are.

"We have people who are interested," Lori said.

The guild, after years of making financial concessions in contracts with current and past owners, was due this year to start a profit-sharing plan.

"And given the state of affairs right now, it's unlikely that that benefit is going to be realized," Lori said.

Although the guild says it is neutral on the question of a private or public auction, Lori expressed concerns about whether a private auction would be fairly run.

She also noted the company was sold in a private auction in 2012, leading to the current state of deadlocked affairs.

Among the issues in dispute are the employment of the Inquirer's editor and the publisher for all of the media assets.

Judge Patricia McInerney gave Katz's attorneys until Thursday to explain in a legal brief why the auction should be public. Attorneys for the Norcross faction have until Jan. 22 to respond.

Twitter: @ChrisBrennanDN

Blog: ph.ly/PhillyClout

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