Murdoch already facing strike at WSJ

The final take-over contracts, as far as we know, have not yet been signed but already there is talk at the Wall Street Journal of a strike.

Members of the Independent Association of Publishers’ Employees, which represents about 2,000 Dow Jones employees, have scheduled a strike ballot this weekend. The Journal staff it seems are not happy at the new contract they are being offered – not by Rupert Murdoch but the old management – which calls for a three per cent wage increase over the next three years, plus some new health benefits.

The negotiations which have been going on since last January – long before Murdoch came into the picture – have been described as very acrimonious.

What affect this will have on Murdoch’s takeover of the WSJ – expected now some time in November – is not clear.

It’s said that Murdoch must honour any agreement reached between now and then between the management and the union. If none is reached then new talks would have to begin with Murdoch. Would he want to start his new ownership with a strike threat looming, with some reporters threatening to walk out? Not likely.

The mood in the newsroom was demonstrated by the signs that went up earlier this week just before Murdoch made his first appearance there since the take-over was agreed. The signs, with a cartoon-like picture of Murdoch carrying an open briefcase stuffed with dollar bills, read: show Us The Money. The signs, according to the NY Times, were taken down while Murdoch was in the building – but then restored after he left. And are still there.

Few know that the WSJ union owes its existence to a Fleet Street newsman. Eric Frankland, a former Daily Mirror staffer, who emigrated to the US in the Sixties and joined the staff of the WSJ was such a dedicated pro-union man that he set out to start a union at The Journal. It was not easy. There were numerous legal battles.

At one time his job seemed to be in danger, but he persevered. When it seemed his efforts were going to succeed the Journal could hardly dare fire him.

Once the union was established he was on safe ground until he retired and the Wall Street Journal had what it never had before – a British style trade union.

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