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FIGHT OVER PRESSES KEEPS JUDGE IN TOWN

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U.S. District Chief Judge Bruce S. Jenkins canceled travel plans Thursday and continued a hearing in a request for a restraining order against a press workers' union that prints the Deseret News and Salt Lake Tribune.

The suit was filed by Newspaper Agency Corp., which handles printing, distribution and advertising for the two papers. NAC charged that members of the Graphic Communications Union had engaged in a work slowdown since late May in a dispute over overtime.NAC had cut union staffing of color press runs from two to one employee per unit. Only one is needed, NAC says. While all employees continued to work full shifts, the change reduced overtime.

NAC charged that press workers responded with sabotage.

As a backdrop to the dispute over overtime, the union contract expires June 30.

Stephen W. Cook, lawyer for the union, said the printers tried to open discussions about the contract, but the parties were unable to meet. "The company is engaged in bad-faith bargaining," he said.

During the first part of the hearing, Jenkins seemed to work toward agreement on an order that would stave off future slowdown actions.

Cook said the union instructed members not to engage in any such activities and told them that these would violate their contract, which has a no-strike clause.

Under the contract, formal grievance procedures, possible arbitration and negotiation were potential solutions, he said.

Jenkins premised a line of questions by saying he wasn't implying the union actually engaged in a slowdown: he just wanted to ask Cook if the union intended to do so in the future.

Cook said it didn't and that the no-strike clause was valid. The union told its membership three times not to take such actions, he said.

"Do you know of any good reason why an order shouldn't be entered to that effect?" the judge asked.

"Yes, I do, your honor," Cook began.

"All right," said Jenkins, exasperated. He abruptly told Deno Himonas, lawyer for NAC, "Call your first witness."

That was Terry Northrup, assistant production manager for NAC and general foreman in the pressroom, who testified that excessive overtime was paid before the change. No other major press of the type, as far as he knows, has two workers on such units, he said.

On May 11, when discussing the coming changes with union local representatives, he said, "The meeting got completely out of hand. What developed was a shouting match."

He said when color presses were staffed by one man, where two had operated them, that man would get a 5 percent pay increase. At one point, the union unanimously agreed not to accept the raise but nobody returned it, Northrup said.

He quoted one union man as saying that if a position were eliminated, "there will be a battle and we would go to war." None of the other union people present contradicted that, he said.

He said the union filed grievances over the overtime dispute and the resolution process began. Despite this, NAC says, a slowdown also began.

Himonas said of negotiating sessions about the contract, "There were three meetings scheduled and the union canceled all three."

Concerning the dispute over cutting overtime, he said a pressman told one witness, "Hey, you think the papers are late now, you wait until the cuts go in."

Since the slowdown started in late May, he said, both papers frequently have been late - sometimes more than an hour.

Hanging a metal printing plate from the edge of the podium as he spoke, he said such plates must be crimped at the ends to keep them on the presses. One union official "left all 16 of his plates uncrimped so they would accidentally fly off," he said.

In addition, he said, when problems occurred, press workers moved slowly to correct them.

Strikes are banned by the contract, he said. A strike is a concerted effort to bring economic pressure to bear on an employer. This is a "partial strike," Himonas said.

The hearing continues Friday afternoon.