As strike goes on, union plans own newspaper

Associated Press

SEATTLE – The city’s two major daily newspapers planned Wednesday to publish thinner-than-normal Thanksgiving Day editions as striking workers continued a walkout over wages.

The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild planned to print its own strike newspaper beginning Friday.

The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer printed and distributed 24-page editions Wednesday and planned to do the same on Thanksgiving Day, when newspapers are typically thick with holiday advertising and inserts.

“The main part of the newspaper certainly will be smaller than it is traditionally,” said Times President Mason Sizemore. “Clearly, the timing of the strike is to disrupt the relationships newspapers have with their advertisers. It has impacted the timing of advertising and the volume of advertising.”

The newspapers were being put together by managers. Sizemore said 99 percent of subscribers received their newspapers Wednesday.

The Guild, which represents 1,000 editorial, circulation and advertising employees at the two papers, said Wednesday that it had filed an unfair labor practice complaint against The Times, accusing the newspaper of threatening to fire striking employees unless they return to work.

The newspaper said the charge was groundless.

“We understand the National Labor Relations Act as well as anybody,” Sizemore said.

Some Guild members have crossed picket lines to work, although neither the newspapers nor the Guild have said how many.

No new talks were scheduled in the walkout against the dailies, which have independent newsrooms but share advertising, circulation and production staffs under a joint operating agreement. The papers notified readers that the papers would be free for now and that readers could go to their Web sites for late-breaking news and sports.

Both papers’ Wednesday editions included local and national news, business, sports and feature coverage. The newspapers will begin to grow in size in the next several days, and deadlines will soon become more normal, Sizemore said.

Some advertisers have increased their purchase of space in today’sT Tacoma News Tribune, said advertising director John Kelly. The News Tribune has not attempted to gain more advertisers in the Seattle area, he said, although the paper has printed 10,000 additional copies for distribution in King County.

Sizemore said the majority of Times advertisers have been understanding. More than half of Thanksgiving Day advertising inserts were included in Monday’s editions, he said.

Local government leaders threw themselves into the fray. Seattle Mayor Paul Schell on Tuesday ordered city workers not give interviews or information to Times and P-I representatives as long as workers at the papers are on strike.

But Schell backed off Wednesday, saying he wouldn’t personally grant interviews to newspaper representatives during the strike but that other city employees could decide for themselves.

King County Executive Ron Sims also said he would not grant interviews to representatives of the Times or P-I during the strike but would not extend that policy to others in county government.

Neither side expected a quick resolution.

“I don’t think things will break down and resume overnight,” Times business reporter and columnist Greg Heberlein said. “There needs to be a cooling off time. Hopefully, within a few days or so, people will get together.”

Guild spokesman Art Thiel, a P-I sports columnist, offered no forecast.

“The one thing I’ve learned in a career in sportswriting is that predictions get you in trouble,” Thiel said. “We’re just hanging in.”

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