BALTIMORE, JUNE 17 (WEDNESDAY) -- Striking members of The Newspaper Guild voted after an emotional and tense five-hour session Tuesday night to accept a contract with the Baltimore Sun and Evening Sun and return to work today.
The acceptance of the contract by about 700 reporters, copy editors and commercial workers on a vote of 258 to 110 prompted Publisher Reg Murphy to declare in a written statement that the "time of trouble" had ended, and he welcomed Guild members back.
The strike by the Washington-Baltimore Local 35 of The Newspaper Guild was supported by five other unions.
Guild negotiators had indicated they were strongly opposed to the company's insistence on two contract provisions: to have employes make weekly payments for health benefits and continuation of a two-tier pay scale that gives employes who produce the paper's suburban supplements significantly less than other workers.
Union members also made a point of the profits the Sunpapers have earned. "Money has never been a problem," Evening Sun television critic Michael Hill said after a rally in front of the papers' Calvert Street office Tuesday afternoon. "The question is: When a company is making profits, do we have to have any givebacks?"
Support for continuing the walkout disintegrated about halfway through Tuesday night's union meeting at St. Ignatius Church after eight of the nine members of the union bargaining committee recommended accepting the company offer.
"We don't like the proposal, but in light of the problems, it looks like this is what we've got to take," said Cliff Meyers, a committee member.
Michael Bowler, an editor at The Evening Sun, said bargaining committee members were worried whether support from other unions would continue and were concerned about threats of legal action by the paper and the Guild's own unity.
"I think some of the unions have indicated that some of their members might start coming in," he said.
Reporters who are members of the Guild said they would continue a byline strike through Sunday to show their dissatisfaction with the contract. "We want to show the company they are just a bunch of cheap bastards and they should be ashamed of themselves," said David Simon, a reporter for The Sun.
The Sunpapers were bought in May 1986 by the Los Angeles-based Times Mirror Co. for $600 million.
According to statements released at the time of the sale, the two newspapers and television stations in Baltimore and Richmond earned profits of $20.8 million in 1985, a tenfold increase since 1981.
The contract accepted last night provides a wage scale that, over three years, will give top reporters and copy editors a 12 percent raise and employes in suburban sections a 40 percent raise.
In dollars, the increases equal an average weekly raise of $90 for top reporters and $105 for suburban reporters over the three years. The contract will continue the two-tier pay scale.
Each worker will pay $5.62 a week for health benefits.
Both papers continued publication during the strike, with smaller editions produced by management and nonunion supervisors.