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McClatchy union comments on bankruptcy filing

A union representing around 150 workers at six McClatchy-owned newspapers said on Thursday it will continue to work with company leaders to ensure the job security and benefits of its members.

Those workers, and a handful of others who were grandfathered in after the company acquired Knight Ridder in 2006, are represented by the NewsGuild, an arm of the Communication Workers of America.

In a statement on Thursday, NewsGuild President Jon Schleuss took aim at a Chatham Asset Management, a hedge fund that will likely assume full control of McClatchy during and after the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

“Continued financialization of local news will destroy our democracy,” Schleuss said. “It’s time for communities across America to stand up and fight to save local news.”

McClatchy warned last year of a possible bankruptcy filing after it told creditors it would likely not be able to meet certain unfunded liability obligations in its employee pension program. McClatchy froze its pension plan in 2009 but continued to disburse payments to workers who had accrued benefits.

Last year, it asked the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) to step in and assume control of its employee pension plan.

On Thursday, McClatchy listed PBGC as its largest unsecured creditor, with debt totaling over $530 million.

The bankruptcy filing will almost certainly end what was 163 years of family ownership. If a judge approves McClatchy’s bankruptcy plan, control of the company would likely shift to Chatham Asset Management, the owner of the National Enquirer, Toronto Sun and other tabloids.

“That’s difficult — it’s tough to process, but it’s a reality we’re all aware of,” Kevin McClatchy, a fifth-generation descendent of the newspaper’s founder and current McClatchy chairman, said in a statement to the Sacramento Bee. “It’s a necessary step forward for the McClatchy business…we’ve accomplished a lot over the five generations. It’s been a privilege and an honor to be a steward of this enterprise.”

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).