Delegates to The Newspaper Guild's annual convention wrapped up business today with a call to work out the nuts and bolts details of a proposed merger with the International Typographical Union.
Merger of the two unions would create the largest organized labor force within printing communications industry.
"The proposal is to support the creation of a committee to develop the guild's position on merger terms. The Guild has reaffirmed the concept many times, and since 1974 there have been increasingly friendly relations with ITU," said Guild president Charles A. Perlik Jr.
"The overall effect has been to bring greater peace to the newspaper industry and not less. But like so many things, you can only talk about a concept for so long. Eventually you have to fish or cut bait. I think we're at that stage."
A strong majority of the 225 convention delegates gave Perlik the authority to appoint a merger committee. The ITU is expected to set up a similar group at its annual convention in Cincinnati this August.
Guild members work as reporters, editors, advertising salespersons and as many other kinds of employees in the communications industry. Guild membership stands at 35,000 in some 140 publications.
ITU members work as printers, lino-type operators, page makeup artists 65,000 persons in some 500 publications.
Aiding the impetus toward merger of the two unions is changing newspaper technology which has started blurring traditional lines of job distinction among members of the two unions.
ITU president A. Sandy Bevis, who attended the guild convention here, said in a speech. "The only realistic way in which our unions can grow, both financially and in numbers, is to organize the unorganized workers in our industry."
The number of daily newspapers has grown by ten in as many years to a total of 1,756, he said, adding "it is clear that we have not scratched the surface of potential organizing goals.
The ITU has remained a crafts union with its membership limited to specific publishing trades since it was formed 125 years ago. The younger guild, begun 44 years ago as a union of reporters and sub editors, expanded its ranks before World War II to include advertising personnel and others.
Some convention delegates see the guild experience as an "industrial union, representing workers of varying job tasks, as a useful strength for the ITU as those members confront new production methods.
On the other hand, they see ITU's strengths in organizing new workers as beneficial to the guild. The ITU deploys white the guild has only a dozen or so organizers.
Some delegates were predicting that a merger with ITU would put the pieces in place for still additional mergers of unions within the communications industry. Such mergers, they were speculating, could eventually bring the news and business workers of television and radio under a union umberlla with print industry workers.
Guild delegates also adopted a resolution supporting the Kennedy-Corman bill as a comprehensive bill of National Health Insurance. They adopted another resolution promising to cooperate with Amnesty International to help journalists who are jailed for refusing to disclose news sources and for other ideological reasons.