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Strike ends at Pittsburgh Press.

The Teamsters' union reached a settlement with the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, ending a 6-month work stoppage that idled Pittsburgh's two daily newspapers. The settlement eliminated a major hurdle in the sale of the Gazette's city rival, the Pittsburgh Press. The E.W. Scripps Co., owner of the Press, had earlier reached an agreement to sell the newspaper to Blade Communications, Inc., owner of the Gazette, contingent on success by the Gazette in negotiating labor contracts with the Press' unions. The purchase also depended on financing and on approval by the Justice Department, which reviews sales of one newspaper to an other for potential antitrust violations.

The Teamsters struck the Press last May, protesting the planned cut of 450 Teamster jobs. The union represented 627 drivers and circulation workers who delivered the city's two daily newspapers, which were managed under a joint operating agreement for printing and distribution by the Press of both newspapers. The striking Teamsters and members of nine other unions had been working without an agreement since December 31, 1991, when contracts covering 1,250 workers expired.

Officials of the Press said they wanted to save $25 million by streamlining its delivery system, eliminating 450 delivery and 4,500 youth carrier positions and directing the remaining drivers to drop newspapers at about 30 distribution centers for pickup by adult carriers.

The walkout prompted the shutdown of both newspapers. After the strike began, the Press stopped publishing, but reportedly used its editorial staff to put out an alternative, smaller newspaper, the Allegheny Times. The Gazette published a free, two-sided publication that it has distributed at major commuting points in the Pittsburgh area.

When the Press hired temporary workers to replace the strikers, the Teamsters feared that their members would be permanently replaced. If the Press had been able to publish without the Teamsters, it apparently would have been the first time unionized newspaper delivery workers had been permanently replaced by nonunion workers.

Meanwhile, the Press sent letters to officials of the nine nonstriking unions offering to meet to discuss resumption of publication of the newspaper. The Press said it would restart publication on July 24 with or without the unions' agreement to return to work. On July 27 the Press attempted to publish for the first time since the strike began, but halted publication one day later because strikers effectively blocked delivery trucks driven by temporary replacements from leaving the newspaper's printing plant.

With no settlement in sight, Scripps sold the Press to Blade Communications. The Gazette then began negotiations with the Press' 10 unions, settling first with the Teamsters.

Under terms of the 5-year agreement, the Gazette can eliminate up to 260 of the 627 Teamsters jobs over a 5-year period, but must give all distribution work to the union. The company agreed to a buyout package for employees who take early retirement, including lump-sum payments of $35,000 to $50,000, with the amount depending on an employee's years of service; a special bonus of $800 per month until age 62, when Social Security takes effect; a $1,400 monthly pension; and lifetime health care benefits for employees and their spouses. Other terms included wage increases of $24 a week in 1994 and $28 a week in 1995, 1996, and 1997; a $ 1,000 ratification bonus; an increase in monthly pension benefits from $1,300 to $1,400; and lifetime health care benefits for retirees and their spouses.

The nine other unions subsequently settled on similar terms with the Gazette. The unions represent about 600 mailers, printers, pressworkers, paperhandlers, platemakers, and craft and maintenance workers.
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Title Annotation:Pittsburgh-Post Gazette; International Brotherhood of Teamsters
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Feb 1, 1993
Previous Article:Early settlement reached at Timken.
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