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Striking in Seattle

Hundreds of employees from the editorial, advertising and circulation departments of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times walked out today after contract negotiations stalled.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild have been working without a labor contract since July. A Guild spokesman said talks ended Monday after a federal mediator declared no progress was being made.

Although they’re officially off the job, many of the reporters for the Times and Post-Intelligencer are still covering their usual beats today — for a new newspaper. The Seattle Union Record, (last published during a strike in 1919), appeared today with a Web edition featuring reports from striking employees from both newspapers.

The Union Record plans a print edition within the week that will compete directly with the city’s two established morning dailies. The publication — both in print and on the Internet — will feature the work of reporters and columnists formerly affiliated with the Times and Post-Intelligencer.

“Although the content is written and edited by striking workers, our intent is not to promote the agenda of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild,” Union Record Managing Editor Chuck Taylor wrote. “We will cover the strike like any other story, without bias. The strike is, however, the reason we are doing this…”

The last use of such a tactic in a major market was during the 19-month strike by newspaper workers in Detroit against the The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News. Striking workers set up a Web newspaper, The Detroit Journal, which also ran in a weekly print edition.

Union members voted to strike Monday after it appeared negotiators were deadlocked over pay raises and other issues.

Guild members had originally demanded a $6.15 hourly raise implemented over three years, which union negotiators lowered to $3.25 over three years.

The newspapers’ final offer was a $3.30 hourly raise over six years.

Union negotiators had also asked for improvements in retirement and leave policies, as well as the elimination of a long-standing two-tiered pay system. Employees in some suburban bureaus are paid less than their downtown counterparts, a situation management says is necessary to compete with other suburban publications.

The union last struck the Post-Intelligencer in 1936 and the Times in 1953.

The two papers currently compete editorially, but share circulation, advertising and other administrative departments under a joint operating agreement.

The family-owned Times has a daily circulation of 225,700, while the Post-Intelligencer, owned by the Hearst Corporation, publishes 175,800 copies daily.

Representatives from the two newspapers say they have hired temporary employees and will continue to publish during the strike.

“There are no winners in a strike,” Times President Mason Sizemore told the Associated Press. “The newspaper suffers, the readers suffer and the employees suffer.”

Gene Achziger, president of the local Guild, told the Union Record he hoped the break would be brief.

“I’m sure the federal mediator will try to get [company and union negotiators] back together soon,” he said. “Neither side wants to stay out very long.”

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