Archdiocese dissolves union at Spirit newspaper

  • Article by: ROSE FRENCH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 15, 2012 - 10:44 PM

The staff will be combined with the archdiocese communications office; three or four will lose their jobs.

After 50 years, the Twin Cities archdiocese plans to withdraw recognition of the union at its publication the Catholic Spirit.

"It's unfortunate the archbishop [John Nienstedt] has chosen to treat these dedicated workers this way by taking away their collective bargaining rights," said Mike Bucsko, executive officer of the Minnesota Newspaper Guild Typographical Union, which represents Spirit employees. "It really conflicts with teachings of the church and the papal encyclicals, especially some of the writings of Pope John Paul II ... which address the value of labor organizations and collective bargaining in the workplace and unions."

About three or four of the 14 union members will lose their jobs when the Spirit staff is combined with the archdiocesan communications office.

The archdiocese released a news statement Friday announcing that the changes are meant to "more fully coordinate and expand all of the archdiocese's print, electronic, online and video communications efforts."

A report to the Spirit's board of directors in May said the paper, "as currently configured, may not be financially sustainable beyond June 2012." Options included changing the Spirit from a paper to a digital media outlet or reducing its current biweekly publication cycle to cut expenses. For now, the Spirit will continue on its biweekly publication schedule, said archdiocese spokesman Jim Accurso.

Accurso would not say why the union had to be dissolved as part of the restructuring but disputed the idea that the archdiocese's action conflicted with Catholic teaching.

He noted in the statement that employees losing their jobs would receive a "severance package that is consistent with both their current employment agreement and the Catholic Church's commitment to justice and fairness."

Those who remain employed would be covered by a "Justice in Employment" agreement that "fully reflects the Catholic Church's longstanding advocacy for the dignity of work and workers' rights," the statement reads.

The changes are expected to go into effect after June 30 when the union contract ends. As part of the restructuring, the Spirit would lose its independent, incorporated status, which means the archbishop could have greater control over its content and operations, Bucsko said.

Accurso says the archbishop, who serves as publisher of the 80,000-circulation paper, does not plan on playing a more active role in the paper's publication.

Rose French • 612-673-4352

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