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One Seattle Strike Ends

But protests continue against the city’s other major daily, The Seattle Times, as union and newspaper negotiators fly to Washington for more talks.

One reporter played “Amazing Grace” on his bagpipes while nearly 100 members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild — the union representing Seattle’s newspaper workers — gathered at a rally outside the Post-Intelligencer’s offices this morning.

The Seattle Union Record, the newspaper published by the city’s striking journalists, said 130 newsroom employees will return to the Post-Intelligencer, most of them getting back on the job this week.

Like their colleagues at the Times, Post-Intelligencer workers had taken to picket lines in November over union demands for better minimum raises and health care, among other changes.

Post-Intelligencer workers accepted a plan Thursday for $3.30 in hourly raises over six years, nearly the same wage offer they rejected when the strike began. The agreement also included improved medical benefits and a company-paid long-term disability plan.

Returning journalists told their still-striking colleagues at the Union Record they felt “conflicted” about returning to work while the Times strike continues.

“There’s a sense of relief,” said Art Thiel, a sports columnist and 20-year veteran of the Post-Intelligencer. “There’s also a sense of unfinished business.”

Times employees joined the rally this morning to offer encouragement.

“It’s scary to go on strike without you,” Times copy editor Yoko Kuramoto-Eidsmoe told her colleagues. “I want you to go back in and work hard and put out a first-rate newspaper.”

Times negotiations continue

Meanwhile, negotiations with the Times are scheduled to continue today in the Washington, D.C. offices of U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.). Murray’s aides told the Post-Intelligencer the senator hoped a change of scenery would spark a breakthrough.

Times Publisher Frank Blethen and President H. Mason Sizemore will represent the newspaper, while Morton Bahr of the Communications Workers of America and Linda Foley of The Newspaper Guild speak for nearly 700 union members still on strike.

Times workers rejected an amended contract last week, according to the Union Record, partly because of the company’s back-to-work language promising layoffs for strikers, but protecting the jobs of people who chose to break ranks and return to work.

Although the Post-Intelligencer newsroom is now filled, the strike at the Times still threatens the financial health of both operations. Although the papers operate competing newsrooms, business, advertising and production operations are headed by the Times under a joint operating agreement. Under the deal, the Post-Intelligencer would still suffer from a reduced advertising staff, because those workers are employed by the Times and remain on strike.

“If the strike continues, it is going to cost people jobs” at the Post-Intelligencer, size Roger Oglesby, the paper’s editor and publisher. “We are going to look at the size, degree of that impact.”

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