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Communications Workers Union Moving Into Newspaper Industry

November 27, 1986

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Absorbing a printers’ union membership that has been decimated by cold type, computers and other labor-saving technologies, the Communications Workers of America is preparing to target a union organizing campaign on the newspaper industry.

The Communications Workers and the International Typrographical Union announced Wednesday that ITU members had voted by a more than 4-to-1 margin to merge into the telephone employees-dominated CWA.

The final unofficial ballot tabulation, completed Wednesday morning, showed 29,740 ITU members favoring the merger and 7,265 against it.

Union officials said the merger will take effect 15 days after the results are certified by the American Arbitration Association, expected sometime next week.

The merger represents the biggest move yet by the 650,000-member CWA in an effort to extend its influence beyond American Telephone & Telegraph Co., AT&T competitors and the regional phone companies.

CWA President Morton Bahr said newspaper publishers, the primary employers of ITU members, increasingly are becoming more involved in cable television and other telecommunications ventures.

″We see this merger as a way to strengthen everyone’s position at the bargaining table and on the organizing front,″ Bahr said.

As a part of the merger, he said, the CWA is establishing a new ″printing, publishing and media workers sector″ that will be headed by ITU President Robert McMichen.

″This is a great achievement,″ McMichen said. ″By joining with a union of CWA’s size and sophistication, we’ll be better equipped into the 21st century and beyond.″

As the nation’s oldest union - chartered nationally in 1852 - the ITU enjoyed a peak membership of more than 100,000 working printers in the 1960s, before the onslaught of cold type, pagination and other new technologies.

Its current membership is 75,000, but only about 45,000 of them are working; and many of those jobs are in mailing rooms rather than in print shops.

″You could almost hear the collective sigh of relief from the members around the country,″ David Prosten, an ITU spokesman, said of the vote totals.

For more than 10 years, the ITU had unsuccessfully explored possible mergers with several other unions, among them the Teamsters, the Newspaper Guild, the Graphic Commuications Workers and the Machinists.

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