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

Pulitzer-winning writer Eric Nalder (center) pickets with fellow strikers.

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.

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 inflation.

"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.



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