Advertiser unions poised for battle
The layoffs affect 30 members of the Guild
The labor dispute and 54 impending layoffs at the Honolulu Advertiser
will be discussed at a six-union strategy meeting this afternoon.
Those targeted for layoff in a July 16 announcement will meet with union officials before the larger meeting, said Wayne Cahill, administrative officer of the Hawaii Newspaper Guild. The cuts are spread across five of the six unions, sparing members of the Graphic Communications International Union but affecting 30 in the Guild.
That includes four cuts from the newsroom, but does not include four vacant reporter positions, said Mark Platte, senior vice president and editor.
The total number of cuts will remain around 54, he said.
"We've made them make several changes to the list, because they were trying to pick and choose ... you can't do that," said Cahill.
The company is required to first alert the unions to layoffs, but Cahill said there was no mention of job cuts in a meeting July 15. The layoffs were announced the next day by President and Publisher Lee Webber via staff-wide e-mail.
"Had they sat down with the unions ahead of time and discussed it, we probably could have made better of a bad situation and certainly would not have to be putting all these people needlessly through the gut-wrenching" uncertainty, Cahill said.
One whose position is being eliminated is editorial cartoonist Dick Adair. He was on vacation when Platte called to tell him the news.
"I was supposed to take two weeks," to care for his wife following her surgery, "but after that, I decided to come back a week early so I could cash in my vacation pay," he told the Star-Bulletin.
Union contracts at Honolulu's newspapers generally call for shorter-tenured employees to be cut first.
Adair has been at the paper 27 and-a-half years.
The Advertiser contract is worded in such a way that "they could lay off a cartoonist," said Cahill. "In Dick's case, he's the only cartoonist, so that makes him vulnerable."
A long-time writer, Adair could "actually bump somebody," Cahill said. However, Adair said, "I don't think I could walk around here having done that with any conscience."
His last cartoon will appear Aug. 10. "Don't miss it," he said.
Cutting Adair was very difficult, said Platte.
"Obviously, he is very popular and has served our readers faithfully ... but my decision - and it was mine alone - came down to weighing whether I could support an editorial cartoonist versus a reporter, copy editor, graphics artist, editorial clerk or some other important position in the newsroom. Everyone here has tremendous value and I didn't want to lose even one employee, but I had to cut a certain number. Dick understood this and was very gracious about it."