Pressroom Workers Raise A Stink At San Diego's Union Tribune
After almost two years of working without a new contract, pressroom workers at the Union Tribune News in San Diego are winning the community over in their struggle for fair working conditions and better pay. Their employer, the Copley family, has refused to negotiate a fair contract with Graphic Communications International Union Local 404.
Steady downsizing, the end of year-end bonuses, severe cutbacks on overtime pay, and a merit-based pay system had workers searching for a way to bring more pressure to bear on management. At a press conference, they called for a boycott of the newspaper, which has now been endorsed by religious leaders, unions, and community activists. Twenty-five thousand bumper stickers have been handed out.
Over 45,000 subscriptions have been cancelled as numbers have dropped from 325,000 to 280,000 in eighteen months. Marty Keegan, an organizer with GCIU, says, "This is the largest labor and publicly supported boycott in San Diego's history. Representatives from each community group, religious group and political figures have appealed to the public for a fair end to this struggle. Labor leaders, police, and fire departments have called for a just settlement. The severe decline in subscriptions proves that it's working." Workers credit a large part of the community awareness of their struggle to an icon they designed: on posters, flyers, and banners a skunk represents the foul way in which management harasses workers. Keegan says, "Call any person in San Diego and mention you saw a poster with a skunk and they can explain what the skunk means: something stinks at the Union Tribune."
Banners and large posters appear daily along major thoroughfares and freeways during rush-hour traffic. They are suspended from freeway overpasses and bridges and usually get positive responses from drivers. Workers have also taken out one-minute radio and television ads appealing to the community for fair play and justice for working families.
Asking the religious community to help bring a fair settlement has had an immediate impact. Religious leaders have appealed to the employer to bring a just end to this bitter conflict.
Workers have also demonstrated at the newspaper's advertisers. As a result, management has agreed to meet with union leaders, advertisers, and religious leaders to begin discussing a possible end to the dispute. Most workers believe that it is a matter of a few months before management bows to their demands. After eighteen months of a successful boycott and an awful "stink" surrounding the Copley family, workers finally have something to cheer about. Employers know they have the whole community to answer to now.