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Newspaper Strike cripples Ohio city

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Seems like the Unions are making their last attempts for a seat at the power table . . . Pittsburgh's main Newspaper had a similar strike back in 1992, leaving the steel city with only the Post-Gazette and Tribune Review, combine this with the struggles of the Union to gain a foothold in the nearby New Castle Pa. Wal-Mart and the Pittsburgh-Cleveland corridor is shaping up to be the battleground area for the future direction of organized labor.

Bitter strike hangs on at Youngstown newspaper

After three months, no sign of giving in

Sunday, February 13, 2005

By Milan Simonich, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- In this union town, the newspaper strike is about all that brings people to the faded downtown district on a weekend.

About 250 strikers and other unionists marched outside The Vindicator newspaper yesterday. Guards in black fatigues blocked the entrance to the building, occasionally trading insults with those on the picket line.

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By day's end, neither side had given an inch in a strike that is three months old and shows no sign of ending.

The 165 striking reporters, editors, circulation employees and classified ad sellers say they want decent raises after four years of wage freezes. They also are pressing the company to cap their contributions to health insurance coverage.

"Why not treat the employees who made you wealthy with dignity and respect?" said Anthony Markota, president of Local 34011 of the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America.

Mark Brown, whose family owns The Vindicator, said after the demonstration that his newspaper simply cannot afford the kind of contract the union wants.

"Eventually they're going to have to take a reasonable view. We have nothing else to give," Brown said.

Brown, the newspaper's general manager, said The Vindicator will not improve its last offer -- increases that he estimates at 2 percent in each of the next three years, The union said the offer is closer to 1 percent a year, and would add no more than pennies to paychecks. More than half of the union's members make less than $9 an hour.

The Vindicator, Brown said, stands ready to open its books to an independent auditor to prove to strikers that it has lost money for seven consecutive years and probably will for an eighth.

Union members, though, said they do not believe him. They are hurt and angry because Brown has imported reporters and editors from five different newspaper chains to take the jobs of strikers.

He is paying these replacements $20 to $30 an hour, for 60- to 80-hour work weeks. Top pay for Vindicator reporters is $17.83 an hour.

Brown also is supplying replacements with lodging, transportation and $75 a day in meal and expense money. In addition to their pay in Youngstown, they continue to receive salaries from their hometown papers. One replacement worker from a Newhouse newspaper said he made about $2,000 a week during a 14-day stint in Youngstown.

Brown's tactic of hiring replacements from wealthy chains rankles many unionists in Youngstown and its suburbs.

Jim Graham, president of United Auto Workers Local 1112 in Lordstown, Ohio, picketed alongside newspaper workers yesterday.

"This is about principle more than it is solidarity," said Graham, who is urging his 4,000 members not to buy The Vindicator or advertise in it.

The paper had a daily circulation of 70,000 before the strike, and Brown maintains that it has lost virtually no customers.

But Larry Fauver, president of the Greater Youngstown AFL-CIO, said his 15,000 members are dropping The Vindicator. Fauver even urged his members not to talk to anyone working as a Vindicator reporter until the strike is settled.

Five newsroom employees resigned from the guild last week and returned to work. In all, 13 of 178 guild members have quit the union and returned to work during the strike.

Newsroom workers who have remained on the picket line are receiving $300 a week in strike pay, or less than half of what they were making.

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