With the arrival of the holidays, striking newspaper workers at
the Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer
are hunkering down for the long haul. After December talks ended
in an impasse, no end is in sight.
Nearly 1,000 workers from the two papers have been walking the
picket lines since midnight on November 21 in a dispute over pay
and benefits focusing on the lowest-paid workers. Strikers say that
newspaper management--which made a final offer to the union in July
and hasn't blinked since--is refusing to make the compromises necessary
for a deal. "They just haven't engaged in good-faith bargaining,"
says Art Thiel, a P-I sports columnist and Pacific
Northwest Newspaper Guild spokesman. "You can't shake hands
with one hand."
Like many two-newspaper cities, the Times and the P-I
are linked by a federally approved joint
operating agreement. Though the newsrooms are separate, advertising
and circulation staff are shared, with ad revenue split between the
two companies. The P-I is a Hearst Corporation paper, while
the Times is owned by the Blethen family.
Pulitzer-winning writer Eric
Nalder (center) pickets with fellow strikers.
While executives at the papers claim their pay scales are competitive,
the union says otherwise. Over the past 10 years, the local cost
of living in Seattle has skyrocketed--the consumer price index increased
by 43.9 percent--while wages at the Times and the P-I
rose just 21 percent, the Guild reports, failing to keep pace with
"Management refuses to recognize that this is an expensive market,"
says Justin Edison, a copy aide with the Post-Intelligencer. So
expensive, in fact, that workers who come from places where the
cost of living is lower--like St. Paul, Minnesota, where Edison
moved from a year ago--effectively take a pay cut to join the Times
or P-I staff.