MAKING LABOR HISTORY with the signing of documents turning over ownership of the Labor Tribune to the Labor Movement are (seated, fourth and fifth from left) St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White (chairman of the new Labor Tribune Governing Board) and Labor Tribune Publisher (now emeritus) Ed Finkelstein.
Representing the unions who made the transfer possible, receiving the applause of Labor Council delegates at their Sept. 20 meeting, are (standing, from left) Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 562 President Brian Nichols and Business Manager John O’Mara, Missouri-Kansas Laborers District Council Director and Local 42 President Brandon Flinn, Iron Workers Local 392 Rec. Sec. Kyle Rist; Iron Workers Local 396 Business Reps Mark Crowe and Jeremiah Bates, Operating Engineers Local 513 Organizer Brian Graff, and Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO) officers President Ed Smith and Board Chairman Joe Hunt, (retired Iron Workers 396 president and Iron Workers International Union president). Other leaders helping fund the transfer but not able to attend were Bricklayers Administrative Council of Eastern Missouri Director Brian Jennewein and Laborers Local 660 Business Manager Nate Rose.
Serving on the newly formed Labor Tribune Governing Board, in addition to the nine funding organizations, are (seated from left) the Labor attorney handling the legal aspects of the ownership transfer, Michael Evans of the Hartnett Reyes-Jones law firm; representing the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor, Rec. Sec. Rick Stamer; Labor Tribune Managing Editor Tim Rowden; White and Finkelstein; Southern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council Executive Secretary-Treasurer Eric Oller; Executive Vice President of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council Ron Scott; and Frank Jacobs, the IBEW Local 1 business manager representing the St. Louis Building Trades Council. – Philip Deitch photo

Ed Finkelstein, publisher emeritus of the Labor Tribune, said he started his career at the paper as a gopher: “Hey kid, go-fer the donuts. Hey kid, go-fer the coffee.”

And with that introduction to how his 50-year Labor Tribune career unofficially launched when he was 14 and began working part-time at the paper in the summer, Publisher Ed Finkelstein officially turned over the ownership of the 87-year young Labor paper to the newly formed Labor Tribune Governing Board, which represents the paper’s new owners: the entire St. Louis-Southern Illinois Labor Movement.

In a special ceremony at the St. Louis Labor Council’s Sept. 20 delegate meeting that Council President Pat White termed “historic:”

  • Finkelstein and White signed transfer of ownership documents.
  • The nine organizations that provided the funding to make the transfer possible were introduced and recognized for their foresight in stepping up to save the paper for the Labor Movement. (See list at right.)
  • Tim Rowden, the paper’s managing editor, was introduced as the paper’s new executive leader while maintaining his leadership post. Finkelstein, now publisher emeritus, is retiring but will continue to work with the Governing Board and Rowden for the foreseeable future to facilitate a smooth transition. Don’t be surprised if you see him at meetings or his byline in future issues.

“I never thought this was possible when Ed first explained to me the problem facing the paper that threatened its existence, but his persistence and determination to save the paper worked. It’s a compliment to what he’s done all his career in serving our Movement,” White said in opening the signing ceremony.

The issue that threatened to put the Labor Tribune out of business was a multi-million dollar unfunded pension liability that had to be resolved before an ownership change could happen. Without resolving the liability up front, asking the Labor Movement to take on a huge future liability of over $3 million to be paid out over 20 years was not feasible, Finkelstein said.

Thus began a determined negotiating effort with the Newspaper Guild and Communications Workers of America, which have a legal responsibility to protect their pension funds. They agreed to a one-time up-front payment of $821,000 to be invested over 20 years to completely pay the Labor Tribune’s liability and relieve any future liability.

WELCOME, AND ‘THANK YOU’ was the double handshake from St. Louis Labor Council President Pat White thanking retiring Labor Tribune Publisher Ed Finkelstein (right) for his efforts over the past 50 years to ensure the fighting spirit of the Labor Tribune, which supported the regional unions and their members and as a welcome to the Labor Tribune’s new executive leader, Managing Editor Tim Rowden (left). On the table are miniature pencil box replicas of an old typewriter given to the funding unions as a memento of the historic occasion. – Philip Deitch photo

This agreement launched a multi-year effort by Finkelstein to meet with union leadership, attend union meetings to explain the issue and obtain approval for financial participation. Ultimately, eight progressive unions and a renowned Labor insurance company – Union Labor Life Insurance Company (ULLICO) – stepped up with financial commitments because they valued what the Labor Tribune brings to our unions’ members and families and all of Organized Labor.

Throughout the program, both White and Finkelstein praised the nine organizations for their foresight and determination to save the Labor Tribune as the fighting voice of our bi-state Labor community by providing funds to resolve the unfunded pension liability, which was no fault of the paper, as it has paid its pension contributions all along, despite a national pension crisis.

All nine contributing organizations and representatives of the bi-state region’s AFL-CIO central bodies will serve as directors on the Labor Tribune Governing Board along with Rowden.

“Ten years ago, Ed gave me a chance to write for, and eventually lead, the Labor Tribune. It was a gift of faith and trust I will never forget because it changed my life,” Rowden said responding as Finkelstein introduced him as the Labor Tribune’s new leader.

“This is your paper – literally now as well as figuratively,” Rowden said. “Your causes are our causes. Your fights are our fights. We celebrate your victories and strive to bring deeper understanding to the issues and legislation affecting your members.

“None of that is going to change. In fact, we’re working on ways to expand our outreach through more extensive use of email newsletters and social media, and to the larger audience outside the House of Labor so we might bring them in the door…. the Labor Tribune is here to amplify your many voices. We are and have always been here to serve you. And we’re looking forward to many, many more years to come.”

As a special memento of this historic occasion and in appreciation for their courageously stepping up, Finkelstein and Rowden presented participants with miniature old-fashioned typewriter pencil boxes. “To our younger brothers and sisters in the audience, the typewriter is the early forerunner of your computer, only without the memory!” Finkelstein said with a smile.

Why our unions stepped up to save the Labor Tribune

“The Labor Tribune helps maintain St. Louis and Southern Illinois as one of the Labor Movement’s strongest areas in America.”

With that comment, the reasoning for our unions to make an investment to ensure the Labor Tribune continues to publish was highlighted in the first offer of financial support in December 2019 from Union Labor Life Insurance Co. (ULLICO) President Ed Smith.

“I have to tell you that I have been a reader of the Labor Tribune for over 40 years. When I retired, after 34 years with LIUNA to become President of ULLICO in 2008, (we ordered) a subscription of the Labor Tribune, as well as all other Labor papers and publications around the country…to stay current with everything going on in the Labor Movement.

“Let me say…I appreciate the Labor Tribune more than ever as I compare the quality of the writing, the excellent reporting, and the valuable coverage of the many issues confronting our Labor Movement. The explanation of what RTW really means to not only union members, but to all workers, and the negative impact on a state, was a great example of original research and reporting the Labor Tribune does on a consistent basis.

“… Simply put, the Labor Tribune helps maintain St. Louis and Southern Illinois as one of the Labor Movement’s strongest areas in America. It would be a severe blow to our movement to lose this historic, invaluable asset.”

ULLICO’s commitment of $100,000 to save the Labor Tribune launched the campaign that raised the $825,000 needed to retire the paper’s unfunded pension liabilities. The results: last week’s ceremonies to turn ownership of the Labor Tribune to the Labor Movement’s new owner, the Labor Tribune Governing Board.




Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here