Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sense of Calm Returning to Stormy Seattle Scene

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Sense of Calm Returning to Stormy Seattle Scene

Article excerpt

Following 38 days on picket lines, 'P-I' strikers approve agreement; 'Times' strikers to vote on contract

Settlement of the five-week Seattle newspaper strike appeared close late last week, with staffers at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (P-I) approving a contract Thursday and strikers at The Seattle Times expected to follow suit Friday -- even though their union leaders were recommending that members at the Times vote against the proposed agreement.

Following 38 days on strike, workers at the P-I voted for their new pact, 88 to 29.

The Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents about 870 editorial, circulation, and advertising workers at the Times as well as 130 news employees at the P-I, walked out Nov. 21 over pay and benefits.

The Guild originally sought a three-year agreement with across-the- board raises of $3.05 an hour the first year, $1.55 the second, and $1.55 the third. It reportedly lowered the amount to $1.25 for the first year and $1 for each of the next two years. Management, digging in its heels early over pay, made a final offer of $3.30 an hour over six years, which the Guild, weakened by a lack of support from other unions and the fact that as many as 25% of its members crossed the picket line, appeared to be ready to accept, albeit reluctantly. "The companies refused to budge on pay," Guild spokesman Art Thiel, a P-I columnist, said.

With pay more or less a moot issue, negotiators, urged back to the bargaining table by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., focused on benefits as well as back-to-work and severance issues.

Citing costs of the strike that run into the millions, the Times says there will be layoffs of 10% of its work force, with the impact varying by department, though the circulation department is expected to have the most layoffs.

"The financial hit we've taken on this is that we have no choice but to downsize," Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin said.

Both sides late last week were still locking horns over the length of time people would be laid off, with management insisting on one year and the Guild pushing for three months or less. There is also a stipulation that was being hashed out that would reduce the layoffs if the Guild could rebuild circulation lost because of the strike. …

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