Newspapers, union still aren’t talking

Associated Press

SEATTLE – As the strike by members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild at The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer went into its fifth day, newspaper officials said they would meet with the federal mediator sometime this week.

“Our negotiators say that’s very standard and kind of normal to let a week go by,” said Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin.

Federal mediator Jeff Clark said, after meeting separately with the newspapers and the Guild, that he would decide whether to try to bring them all back to the bargaining table. But it doesn’t look like either side is ready to move from their positions yet, Clark said.

“I’ve not gotten any indication that either side is ready to make a new proposal,” he said.

Meanwhile, pickets at the P-I were joined Saturday by a retired longshoreman who was there during the paper’s last strike in 1936.

“I represent the old-timers,” said Del Castle, 85, who was King County chairman of the Workers’ Alliance 64 years ago.

The P-I’s last strike had more support, with picket lines that went around the block, but the current strike has seen less hostility between the two sides, Castle said.

Meanwhile, both The Times and the P-I are working to build their papers back up to normal size. The two papers have been publishing considerably smaller, free editions since the strike started.

The Times has been hiring temporary workers and is considering bringing in temporary reporters and photographers at some point, Coughlin said. Coughlin added they are encouraged by The Times’ ability to publish the paper every day of the strike so far.

“From what I hear, that’s something no other paper has been able to do on day one of a strike,” she said.

The P-I has been using workers on loan from other papers owned by its parent company, The Hearst Corp., said P-I editor and publisher Roger Oglesby.

But as the strike goes on, both sides are feeling the strain.

The Guild sent out a statement to its members Friday night urging them to remain peaceful as they picketed. The statement was issued after a Times editor was spat on Wednesday while walking into the paper’s office, the Seattle Union Record reported.

Both the Times and the P-I have been providing special compensations and bonuses for editors and managers who have had to work longer hours and shoulder greater workloads since the strike started.

“The strike has been a painful thing for everyone concerned,” Oglesby said.

When asked if he was beginning to grow weary of the strike and the days spent on the picket line, Guild spokesman Art Thiel said, “I was weary of it in the first minute.”

The Guild’s strike newspaper, the Seattle Union Record, published its first print edition Friday. The first edition was printed at the Eastside Journal’s plant, but the Bellevue newspaper has since said it will not print anymore editions.

The Guild said it found a new printer for the paper, but would not name the printer.

Guild members have been on strike since voting to walk out Tuesday after a new contract couldn’t be agreed on.

The newspapers’ final offers – the contracts are similar but not identical – included an hourly raise of $3.30 over six years.

The Guild wanted a three-year contract with $3.25 in raises, plus matching 401(k) contributions and other improvements.

Under current agreements, minimum pay for a reporter with six years’ experience is $844.88 per week, or $21.12 per hour.

Guild official Larry Hatfield said the strike was called primarily on behalf of non-newsroom employees who make up a majority of Guild membership. A first-year customer-service representative earns as little as $421 a week, he said, and top scale for a newspaper librarian is about $636.

The Times has not been struck since a months-long walkout in 1953. The P-I’s last strike was in 1936, the year the newsroom unionized.

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