Workers at the New York Daily News voted 55-3 to be represented by the News­Guild of New York ahead of a harrowing May 21 shareholder vote to sell parent company Tribune Publishing to cost-slashing hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Last week’s union vote makes the tabloid the latest Tribune paper to unionize. Now only one of Tribune’s nine daily papers — the South Florida Sun Sentinel — has a union-free newsroom as efforts ramp up by local union chapters to derail Alden’s proposed $631 million takeover of the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and other papers.

For the Daily News, it is actually a return to Guild representation by a union that once represented some 400 dues-paying members at the paper. After a bitter strike in the early ’90s, the union managed to hang around.

But the Guild faded away following the purchase of the News by media mogul Robert Maxwell, the so-called “bouncing Czech” who died (some say by suicide) amid strained finances, and the subsequent sale in bank­ruptcy court to real- estate baron Mort Zuck­erman.

Both Maxwell and Zuckerman had trimmed staff. And when Zuckerman in 2017 sold the tabloid to Trib­une for $1 and the assumption of debt, there were virtually no ex-Guild members left at the paper.

chicago tribune
There have been no bidders for the Chicago Tribune, believed to be the chain’s most profitable paper.
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The Daily News suffered its most devastating cuts under Tribune, which in 2018 slashed the staff by some 50 percent.

Last year, staffers were told that they would continue to work remotely and never return to a newsroom even after the pandemic lifts.

The already decimated newsroom stands to be further slashed under Alden, a New York-based hedge fund known for drastic cuts at papers it controls through its MediaNews Group.

It’s why the Guild is urging Tribune shareholders to vote against the hedge fund while praying for a white knight bidder like Stewart Bainum, chairman of Choice Hotels International, who has expressed interest in buying the newspaper chain.

“The NewsGuild is urging shareholders to vote against Alden’s attempt to take over Tribune Publishing,” said Jon Schleuss, the national president of the News Guild-CWA.

“We continue to support Bainum’s bid to purchase Tribune Publishing, which looks like a better choice than the weak one put forward by Alden. Our members are actively recruiting other supporters from their communities to join the fight to Save Local News.” 

Bainum has been working feverishly to put together a bid with local backers in cities covered by Tribune to buy the chain for $680 million. Last week, he said he’d be willing to up his commitment to the deal from $100 million to $300 million, consisting of $200 million in equity and $100 million in new debt, in a bid to attract others to his takeover bid.

But time is running out without a competing deal.

Mason Slaine, who has just over 3 percent of Tribune stock, is reportedly interested in buying the Orlando Sun and the South Florida Sun Sentinel and would be willing to join a Bainum bid. Slaine, while expressing support publicly for Bainum’s bid over Alden, has not been involved in any direct negotiations with Bainum about joining his bid.

There are others who are also interested in buying local papers and have been watching the process from the sidelines.

But no bidders have come forward for the Chicago Tribune, believed to be the most profitable in the chain, or the struggling Daily News. Said one knowledgeable source, “The challenge is they need someone else to come in and say they want the Chicago Tribune, otherwise it doesn’t work.”

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