Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ultimatum to Unions: Pittsburgh Paper Vows to Publish despite Deliverers' Strike

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Ultimatum to Unions: Pittsburgh Paper Vows to Publish despite Deliverers' Strike

Article excerpt

The Pittsburgh (Pa.) Press is vowing to do what the New York Daily News could not: Publish and deliver a newspaper despite a strike by drivers.

In a letter to 10 unions, Pittsburgh Press Co. said it intends to resume delivery of both newspapers "as early as July 24."

Neither the E. W. Scripps-owned Press nor the jointly produced Pittsburgh Post-Gazette have been published since May 17, when more than 600 drivers from Teamsters Local 211 walked off their jobs in a dispute over Press Co. plans to eliminate 450 driver and distribution positions.

In a statement, Press Co. general manager Jimmy Mannis said that both newspapers will be published "with or without the cooperation of the union." However, the Block family owners of the Post-Gazette say they have not decided whether it will publish.

With its decisions, Press Co. appears to have set the stage for an epic labor battle in a city where union sentiment still runs strong and deep.

Union leaders for their part say they want to keep talking, but that the Press Co. apparently is spoiling for a fight.

Teamsters local leader Joe Molinero said he is increasingly convinced the company simply wants to break his union.

"I believe that's the case, and that may have been what they were thinking all along," Molinero said in a telephone interview from the headquarters of the Pittsburgh Newspaper Unity Council.

Molinero said the company's letter - which pointedly was not sent to the Teamsters - was a shock after recent negotiations under federal mediation in Washington.

"We left there really cautiously optimistic that we had established some good dialogue with them, that both sides knew where we were going," he said.

In fact, Molinero added, the talks had focused on specific proposals for a "period of accommodation" for drivers as the newspapers change their system of distribution.

The newspapers want to eliminate the present system - with its 10,000 drop-off points and a youth carrier force of 4,300 - and replace it with a small network of bulk distribution centers and an all-adult carrier force.

But can the papers deliver without the Teamsters?

"I don't think so," Molinero said flatly.

"First, I don't think the people of Pittsburgh will accept a newspaper produced by strikebreakers for the sole purpose of breaking a union," he added.

George Curtin, spokesman for the 11-member Unity Council, agreed.

"They can bring in professional strikebreakers, but I don't see how they are going to deliver the paper. …

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