The deadline for Village Voice employees to agree to a new union contract with Village Voice Media, its Phoenix-based owners, is less than 9 hours away, and a strike remains a possibility unless management backs off its demand that employees pay for part of their health care coverage.
“I don’t know how we’ll end up tonight, but we’re going back to the talks this afternoon, so hopefully we’ll get it done,” said Tom Robbins, a veteran columnist and labor reporter at the Voice, and shop steward for United Auto Workers Local 2110. “But management is still making demands that we find unacceptable in terms of health care.”
According to Robbins, management continues to want employees to pay a percentage of the health insurance premiums. But union members—its ranks thinned in recent months by a series of prominent layoffs, including longtime dance critic Deborah Jowitt—say they won’t budge from their position.
So what exactly will happen when the two sides meet after work tonight?
“We go to a table and we talk and sit around and argue and then we caucus and then we argue some more,” said Robbins. “Then we look to make a deal. If we can’t make a deal, then we go back to the members in the morning and we say, ‘Here’s our recommendation.’”
While Robbins hopes to avert a strike, he’s prepared for one. “We’re ready to strike. We’ve got a plan. I hope we don’t have to. The plan is having people ready to hit the bricks.”
A message seeking comment was left for Tony Ortega, editor-in-chief of The Village Voice.