The Chicago Sun-Times is proceeding to eliminate 26 jobs, 14 routes and surviving drivers will suffer a seven percent pay cut, according to Teamster 706 member Jack Power. Power, a Sun-Times driver on the Southwest Side, said the paper is acting even though its contract with the union requires it to work with the union on any changes to the contract.
The change will reduce the number of union routes from about 50 to 36 starting in March. The 36 new routes will match the routes driven by the local 706 drivers of the Chicago Tribune. The union, which just signed a contract with the two newspapers, has allowed the newspapers to add additional newspapers on each truck. In the past work rules prevented a Teamster driver from carrying more than the editions of a single newspaper on his truck.
With the elimination of that rule and the line-up of the routes, Power said the way is cleared for the combination of the routes and the elimination of all street jobs at the Sun-Times. Relay drivers, drivers with a Class A license driving larger vehicles to Tribune suburban distribution centers, are being labeled exempt in the reorganization, meaning the seniority of some street sales drivers will be ignored in favor of younger drivers when the reorganization occurs.
Power pointed out that street sales of the Sun-Times is far more important to the company than street sales of the Chicago Tribune. Recently, the Tribune's street sales were said to be about 46,000 for the Blue paper with street distribution of Red Eye about 198,000. A large part of those sales are actually outside the Teamster area in the suburbs. The Sun-Times sales of about 187,000 are much more concentrated within the Teamster delivery area. Power points out that the Sun-Times is putting an important sales effort in the hands of its biggest rival.
Noting the extra-ordinary election day sale of the newspaper, he asked if the Tribune would have worked as hard to sell the paper as the dedicated drivers of the Sun-Times did. “The Sun-Times is putting all the media in Chicago into the hands of the Tribune,” Power said, noting the distribution agreement between the two companies. “The increase in sales on election day was due to the union drivers. The Sun-Times didn't sell any additional papers in the suburbs, where the Tribune controls distribution,” Power said. “Now they're laying off their best sales force.”