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Striking in Seattle — Week Four

After five hours of negotiations collapsed yesterday, union members announced a city-wide boycott, urging readers and advertisers to support the strike by canceling subscriptions and ad contracts.

Nearly 1,000 members of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild took to the picket lines four weeks ago over pay, benefits and other issues. Now, spokesmen for the organization say the strike against The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer could go on for weeks.

“We have no choice,” Guild spokesman Art Thiel told the Associated Press. “For those of us who have worked at these newspapers for a long time, this is a difficult thing.”

But Times spokeswoman Kerry Coughlin said the union is adding to the problem.

“We think it’s really unfortunate the guild is making this kind of effort and trying to damage the two newspapers, which really hurts everyone,” Coughlin said.

Reporters from the two papers are usually rivals, but have teamed up during the strike to start their own newspaper, The Seattle Union Record, available online and in print.

With a combined circulation of nearly 500,000, the Times and Post-Intelligencer compete editorially, but share circulation, advertising and other administrative departments under a joint operating agreement. They also negotiate jointly with the union.

During the original negotiation sessions last month, union negotiators had 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.

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