By: M.L. Stein San Francisco newspaper strike takes dark turn when union
driver is killed, non-union worker suffers fractured skull sp.
THE SAN FRANCISCO newspaper strike, already plagued with violence, took an even darker turn when a picketer was electrocuted while, apparently trying to cut off electrical power from a suburban newspaper distribution center.
Police said Kent Wilson, 45, a Teamster driver, was killed Nov. 6, when he was hit by 1,200 volts of electricity, hurling him 15 feet from a power pole that he had been scaling.
A police sergeant said Wilson had managed to cut power to about half, at the building operated by the San Francisco Newspaper Agency in Mountain View, about 35 miles south of San Francisco.
Previously, the agency reported that bricks had been thrown through paper carriers' windshields as they drove from the company's downtown distribution center.
One non-union driver for the San Francisco Chronicle reportedly was hit on the head with a lead pipe, suffering a fractured skull.
SFNA president and CEO Jim Hale issued a statement saying, "A number of our replacement drivers have been physically attacked . . . . Three drivers are in the hospital." He added that five delivery trucks had been destroyed.
Meanwhile, the strikers and management issued conflicting reports about how many copies of the Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner were being distributed.
Doug Cuthbertson, chairman of the striking Conference of Newspaper Unions, blamed some of the violence on "out-of-town goons" imported by management.
Hale stated that the agency was "in no way responsible for the striker violence."
However, both sides continued talks in an effort to end the walkout by 2,600 workers representing eight unions. They met in the office of San Francisco Mayor Frank Jordan, who said Wilson's death should "serve as a serious wake-up call" to everyone involved in the labor dispute. Also present at the meetings was a federal mediator.
Joining the walkout are reporters, photographers, ad sales persons, librarians, pressmen, printers, janitors, mailers and others.
According to a published report in the Nov. 2 Examiner, the main issues in the strike are wages and the agency's intention to reduce the number of drivers.
Unions, the report said, asked for a 3.5% annual raise while management offered 2.46%. For a top reporter or photographer, this last figure would mean an increase of about $9 per week.
Hale insisted that management does not seek to lay off any drivers but to "eliminate some positions through attrition."
The Teamsters, he claimed, refused to accept the proposal.
Hale reported that more than 420,000 copies of the combined Examiner and Chronicle Sunday paper were delivered by 9 a.m., Nov. 6.
In addition, he said, street copies were available throughout the Bay Area.
Hale said that on Monday, Nov. 7, 412,475 papers were delivered, including 34,599 in home delivery and 39,342 single copies for racks and retail outlets. The total figure included 338,534 copies for suburban and country areas, the CEO said.
Normally, the Chronicle sells most of its newspapers outside San Francisco.
At a press conference, Cuthbertson said that "thousands of newspapers are sitting in warehouses, undelivered," and that only a "smattering" of papers are going to outlying areas.
He termed Hale's distribution figures a "transparent coverup by management.
"Many advertisers are dissatisfied with assurances that their ads will be delivered to customers, and some have asked that their pre-prints be returned so they can be delivered to targeted customers," Cuthbertson said.
He added that the unions have carried out a "successful campaign to pull advertisers out of the paper, and the number of those advertisers is expected to grow."
This statement was countered by the agency's advertising director, Bartley Green, who said advertisers are continuing with their original plans.
"Due to continuing advertising demand and a limited page capacity, we've actually had to turn business away," Green reported.
The unions are publishing a weekly paper, the San Francisco Free Press. A union spokesman, Greg Lewis, said the plan is to increase publication of the tabloid to three times a week.
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