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Subject: Joseph Eisenberg, New York Times Negotiator on Labor Contracts

heart attack at 74
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Date Posted: November 08, 2002 5:24:10 EDT

Joseph Eisenberg, a retired labor negotiator for The New York Times who helped write and administer the paper's contracts with the Newspaper Guild of New York for more than two decades, died on Wednesday at a hospital in Miami Beach, Fla., where he lived. He was 74.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Fay.

Mr. Eisenberg, a rumpled, cigar-chomping handball fanatic who began his Times career as a teenage messenger and retired in 1991 as director of labor relations, was a newsroom clerk for more than half of his 48 years with the newspaper, mostly spent with clattering teletype machines in a wire room.

But his volunteer work for the Newspaper Guild the union for reporters, editors, photographers and a range of clerical and other noncraft employees led to his selection in the early 1960's as chairman and chief negotiator of the guild unit at the Times.

Barry Lipton, president of the citywide guild, recalled yesterday that Mr. Eisenberg negotiated the first pension benefit for Times employees in 1965. And, in an acknowledgment of his skills at the bargaining table, The Times in 1969 hired Mr. Eisenberg for its own negotiating team.

While subordinate to other executives on the team, Mr. Eisenberg was The Times's principal voice in talks with the guild through the 1970's and 1980's. Besides negotiating contracts, he helped administer them, handling grievances and disagreements as they arose. He was named director of labor relations for The Times in 1988, a post he held until he retired.

Born in the Bronx on Dec. 26, 1927, he attended DeWitt Clinton High School and joined The Times as a messenger in 1943, the day after his 16th birthday. For 25 years, he was a clerk in a wire room, where teletype machines hammered out the day's news from wireless services and far-flung correspondents.

He played a vital role in one journalistic coup. Just before dawn on Feb. 8, 1955, he was on a graveyard watch after the staff members had gone for the night when a teletype jumped to life with a bulletin: Georgi Malenkov had resigned as Russia's premier. Within hours, a small crew raised by Mr. Eisenberg's calls put out a special edition.

Besides his wife, whom he married in 1955, he is survived by a son, Gary, of Monroe, N.Y.; a daughter, Sharon Wigal of Irvine, Calif.; a brother, Ralph, of Toms River, N.J.; and five grandchildren.

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