Ed Padgett works as a pressman at the L.A. Times’ Olympic Boulevard printing plant – a third-generation employee who has been with the paper 39 years. He currently blogs at his site, Los Angeles Pressmens 20 Year Club. Padgett began posting messages in 1990, before the advent of the Internet, because, he says, “I was getting a bit bored.” His tedium vanished in 2008 when, after press operators voted to join the Teamsters (the first union shop on Times property since 1967), Times managers began, he said, continual attempts to fire union members on a variety of workplace rule infringements.
What’s happening at the Times these days?
They’re expecting a really bad fourth quarter. The senior vice president told us we’ve got three years more of printing the hard copy Times before they shut it down. Our plant manager says five years.
And then what – online only?
Did things get better after you unionized?
No, they got worse. They tried to fire all of us who were involved in the organizing. The very first day after [unionization] I went to the restroom and was told that counted as my break.
Why are they harassing members if the union’s already in?
They want more work out of fewer people. They want people to quit.
Your plant unionized at the very moment of historic downsizing in print media – how has the local’s size been affected?
We began at 220 members and we’re down to 117 now. They only lay off full time employees – they never lay off part-timers. And they give non-union employees 20 to 25 weeks severance while union members get nothing.
Are people disillusioned – did they assume the union could prevent all layoffs?
We catch hell from members because it now takes two years to settle grievances – we’ve got 55 charges pending against the company. Every time we’re ready to sit down with them they cancel.
Do members have second thoughts about joining a union?
In June we went through a decertification vote. It was soundly defeated – the contract we have really protects us. Our plant manager once told me, “If it wasn’t for your union contract I’d hand-pick who to lay off.”
Are you one of those that would’ve been hand-picked?
Last June I was suspended indefinitely, but a lot of [Times writers] came to my defense.
Are you ever tempted to pack it in?
Hell no, I won’t quit!
Editor’s Note: L.A. Times spokeswoman Nancy Sullivan told the Frying Pan that the paper has no current plans to cease publication of its print editions.