Times denies bullying claim


Associated Press

SEATTLE — Union representatives met with an investigator from the National Labor Relations Board on Monday to press their claim that management of The Seattle Times was unfairly pressuring striking employees.

The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild accused the Times of telephoning striking workers at home and telling them they could lose their jobs to replacement workers unless they returned to work.

The Guild filed a petition last week asking the NLRB to investigate.

The strike by news, advertising and circulation workers at the Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer was in its seventh day Monday with no negotiations scheduled. No accusations of unfair pressure have been filed by the Guild against the Post-Intelligencer.

"It’s time for the company to stop its dirty tricks, take down the fences and get back to the bargaining table," said Bruce Meachum, the Guild’s chief negotiator. "They’re 1930s tactics in 2000 Seattle, and they’re just unacceptable."

Just before the strike began on Nov. 21, the Times erected 8-foot fences around its properties and brought in extra security guards.

Times President H. Mason Sizemore said Monday the accusations probably resulted from misunderstandings when the Times called striking workers last week. He said the Times was simply trying to inform workers of what they needed to do if they wanted to return to work.

"Those telephone calls were not intended to intimidate anyone," he said. "We never told people that their jobs would not be available at the end of the strike."

The Times and P-I are owned by different companies and have competing newsrooms, but publish together under a joint operating agreement with advertising and circulation handled by the Times. They negotiate together with the Guild, though each paper has slightly different contracts.

Federal mediator Jeff Clark said Saturday he planned to meet separately with both sides this week and then decide whether to try to bring them back to the bargaining table.

Both papers have been publishing smaller editions with free distribution since the strike began. The Guild, which represents about 1,000 employees at the papers, has been publishing its own strike newspaper, the Seattle Union Record.

On Sunday, the Times asked for more police outside a printing plant in suburban Bothell after complaining that pickets were delaying vehicles leaving the parking lot for up to two minutes each.

The union that represents press operators at the plant voted last week not to join the strike.

The newspapers’ final offers 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.

Guild official Larry Hatfield said the strike was called primarily on behalf of non-newsroom employees, some of whom earn a low of $421 a week.

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

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