Unions Wary About Plan To Publish Morning Times

The Seattle Times' plan to convert to morning publication drew uneasy reactions yesterday from union leaders representing newspaper employees.

"There could be significant short- and long-term ramifications, which may have adverse impact on our members," said Paul Glavin, administrative officer for the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, which represents roughly 1,500 employees, most of whom work for The Times, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Eastside Journal in Bellevue.

The afternoon Times and the morning P-I share advertising and circulation departments under a joint operating agreement. The Times' shift to morning publication stands to trigger significant changes in the way those departments operate.

Miguel Gomez, business agent for Teamsters Local 174 and a former Times driver, expects 30 to 40 percent of driver jobs to be cut as distribution is consolidated from a daylong operation to mornings only.

"That's my main concern - what happens to our jobs?" said Bob Hasegawa, secretary-treasurer of Local 174, which represents 90 drivers.

Mason Sizemore, president and chief operating officer of The Times, said logistical details are yet to be worked out.

"There aren't any firm, strong answers," Sizemore said.

He said newspaper managers will be talking with union officials throughout the conversion process, which will take place sometime in the next 24 months.

One group likely to be affected is junior carriers - students who deliver The Times after getting out of school in midafternoon. Morning carriers are almost exclusively adults who drive their cars to pick up papers and distribute them.

"The trend in the industry is toward more adult carriers," Sizemore said. "It's very difficult to recruit junior carriers into a morning situation where our goal is to have papers delivered by 6 a.m."

Gene Achziger, president of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild, said union officials are seeking a legal interpretation of the newspapers' plan.

Achziger said a chief concern for the Guild is that the new agreement complies with the intent of the Newspaper Preservation Act, "which is to assure the survival of competing editorial voices."

John Bachler, president of Local 767M of the Graphic Communications Union, which represents about 120 press operators, paper handlers and photo engravers, worries the change will mean layoffs.

"It's a concern," Bachler said. "At this time, it's quite early for us. We just don't know how it's going to impact us."

Bachler said the move will allow his union to reopen contract negotiations. He expects to coordinate with leaders of the other unions that represent workers at the papers.

"There are a lot of questions that they have not answered yet," Bachler said.

Aage Strand, a representative for unionized Times and P-I printers, said The Times' switch to mornings likely will bring a flurry of shift changes and new deadlines.

Deadlines have long been staggered throughout the day to accommodate the two newspapers' different publishing schedules. With both papers coming out in the morning, those deadlines probably will fall closer to each other.

"That would probably mean less work here in the morning, on the day shift," said Strand. "Earlier in the evening would be a busy time, with both ads and makeup production for two papers."

For employees who have spent decades on day shifts, Strand said, switching to later schedules will be quite an adjustment.

"Day jobs would be scarcer, I would think," he said. "A lot of people . . . have had day jobs for years and years and years."

Seattle Times business reporter Jay Greene contributed to this article.

Jake Batsell's phone message number is 206-464-2595. His e-mail address is jbatsell@seattletimes.com