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Seattle Newspaper Strike Looms

November 21, 2000

SEATTLE (AP) _ The city’s two daily newspapers prepared for a strike Monday after the union representing hundreds of editorial, advertising and circulation workers said contract talks were not going well.

The likelihood of a walkout after the strike deadline of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday was ``very high,″ said Larry Hatfield, administrative officer for the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.

The Guild, which represents 1,000 employees, has been without a labor contract since July 22. It last struck the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1936 and The Seattle Times in 1953.

The two papers, which negotiate under a joint operating agreement, said they have hired temporary employees and would count on non-union members and managers to publish during a strike.

The Times began boarding up its main downtown building Monday and removed newspaper boxes out front. Suburban newspapers said they would publish additional copies if there is a strike.

The strike deadline was timed for the advertising-rich holiday period from Thanksgiving to Christmas. The Times put some advertising inserts planned for Thanksgiving editions in Monday papers.

The 104-year-old Times and the 137-year-old Post-Intelligencer have been in an increasingly heated circulation war since the Times switched to morning distribution in March. The Times, a Blethen family enterprise that is 49.5 percent owned by Knight Ridder, publishes 225,700 copies daily. Its Hearst-owned competitor has a daily circulation of 175,800.

Currently, the average minimum wage for a Guild-member reporter with six years’ experience is $844.88 per week, or $21.12 per hour. The Guild has sought a three-year contract with an overall raise of $6.15 per hour.

At the request of a federal mediator, both sides have withheld details of the latest contract proposals.

Meanwhile, the newspapers reached a contract agreement Monday with a Teamsters local representing 460 mailers and sales and distribution workers. Ratification was pending.

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