Down East 2013 ©
Deal without much appeal: MaineToday Media, the company that owns the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, and the Waterville Typographical Union Local 643, the union that represents thirty-two employees at the KJ, announced on Sept. 21 that they’d agreed on a new four-year contract.
The deal gives workers in the newspaper’s newsroom, advertising department, and finance department a five percent pay raise, but includes some significant give-backs by the union, according to a press release and comments by those familiar with the details (but not authorized to discuss them publicly).
The release says MTM will receive “greater flexibility in determining employee benefits packages upon consultation with the union.” Note that it says “consultation” not agreement. In addition, advertising account executives will no longer receive base salaries, but will be paid by commission only.
According to sources, the union also lost ground in areas involving severance pay, seniority, and the health plan. Also, the agreement includes a clause that could make it easier for a new owner to void the union deal.
MaineToday CEO Richard Connor is quoted in the release as saying, “This new contract signals the willingness of KJ employees to work together with us in these nationally challenging times.”
The KJ contract has implications for union members at the Portland Press Herald, also owned by MTM. Management is said to be demanding many of the same cuts and rule changes incorporated in the deal for the smaller paper at its flagship publication. Officials at the Portland Newspaper Guild, the largest union at the Press Herald, refused to comment on the state of negotiations or when a deal might be reached.
The KJ agreement replaces a contract that was signed in June 2009 as MTM was negotiating to buy the paper. That agreement included significant wage and benefit reductions. At that time, the union represented eighty-five workers, many of whom lost their jobs when MaineToday shifted all its printing operations to the company’s plant in South Portland.
Exploding a myth: It must be true. After all, it was reported in the Portland Press Herald , on WGME-TV , on WMTW-TV  (courtesy of the Associated Press), on WCSH-TV  (also from the AP) and in the weekly Forecaster .
Every one of these news outlets put out stories saying that on Sept. 19, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance banning the sale, use, and possession of fireworks within municipal limits.
Well, two out of three ain’t bad.
No matter what the stories say, the new rules don’t make simple possession of fireworks illegal in Portland, because the state law that takes effect Jan. 1 doesn’t allow cities and towns to do that. That legislation does permit municipalities to outlaw the sale and use of explosive fireworks, but merely possessing them is legal because such a town-by-town restriction would make it all but impossible for fireworks dealers to transport their products to places where selling them is allowed.
If any reporter had actually read the Portland ordinance, he or she would know that. The only mention of possession being against the law is when it involves intent to use the fireworks or intent to sell them.
Widespread sloppy work that misleads the public.
Al Diamon can be emailed at email@example.com .