P-I brings in replacement workers

By PEGGY ANDERSEN

Associated Press

SEATTLE — As the strike against The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer settled into its second week, the PI’s first temporary replacement workers reported for newsroom duty Wednesday.

"We are consciously hiring only short-term replacements now" for striking Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild staffers, P-I Executive Editor Ken Bunting said. "We’re working on the assumption this thing will pass, and I’m hoping we can get our professional family back together again."

The P-I has been running Internet ads on industry Web sites, Bunting said.

Until now, the newspaper had been making do with managers and loaned employees from other Hearst Corp. papers.

The Seattle Times, meanwhile, advertised in both papers Wednesday for replacement workers in its advertising, marketing and circulation departments.

The Times still hasn’t decided whether to bring replacement workers into the newsroom, said the company’s president, Mason Sizemore.

"We have enough Guild people who have chosen to work" and management personnel to staff the newsroom for now, he said.

The Times, a family-owned operation 49 percent owned by Knight Ridder, handles ads and circulation for both newspapers under their 1983 joint operating agreement. It employs most of the nearly 1,000 workers covered by the Guild, the majority of them in non-newsroom jobs.

Both papers had three sections Wednesday, totaling 34 pages, up from single-section 24-page issues a week earlier, when both published their first editions after the Nov. 21 walkout.

Deadlines have been extended to 7:30 p.m., two hours beyond the 5:30 lockup for those first post-strike editions and allowing for more timely sports coverage, but three hours shy of the former 10:30 deadline.

"We’re getting our sea legs now," P-I spokesman John Joly said. "It’s been a struggle."

There is still no charge for the papers, a practice that is to continue until the publications are closer to normal heft and content.

The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, meanwhile, is "encouraged by growth and support for the Union Record," the tabloid being produced by striking newsroom personnel, said union spokesman Art Thiel, a sports columnist with the P-I.

"We’re at 30,000 copies," Thiel said.

"I think the response to the Union Record shows there are lots of people very eager to read the people and the coverage and the photography that they’ve gotten used to," he said.

The third hard-copy edition of the paper — it is available daily online — was up to 24 pages, with a page and a half of classified auto ads and four display ads. It was available at the Bartell’s pharmacy chain, the King County Labor Council, BBC Dodge and the activist group Global Action Seattle.

No new talks were scheduled in the contract dispute. Federal mediator Jeff Clark said Tuesday he had met with both sides and there was not enough movement to warrant new talks.

"That’s a baby step, but a positive one," said Bunting, noting that Clark at least found reason to go beyond mere telephone check-ins.

Thiel said ending the stalemate "would take some recognition on the part of the Times and P-I that what the union is seeking is entirely within the bounds of reasonableness."

The newspapers’ last offers, described as final, included an hourly raise of $3.30 over six years. The union wanted a three-year contract with $3.25 in raises, plus other improvements.

"No one in today’s economy would want to lock in over six years," Thiel said, adding, "That doesn’t mean we’re not eager to get together."

Minimum pay for a reporter with six years’ experience is $21.40 an hour, about $840 a week, but Times officials say average pay for reporters is about $29 an hour due to performance-related raises.

The Guild says the strike was called primarily on behalf of non-newsroom employees, some of whom earn as little as $421 a week.

Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin noted the across-the-board raise contained in the final offer is proportionately greater for those workers, in some cases representing a 5 percent wage increase.

On Tuesday, The Times won a temporary restraining order preventing striking workers from blocking streets and entrances around newspaper facilities, and limiting the time pickets can delay vehicles to 45 seconds.

A Dec. 8 hearing is scheduled on the issues.

Copyright ©2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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