300 plus people gathered in front of the San Diego Union Tribune to rally in support of Union Workers who have been involved in a nine-year struggle with the paper for a decent contract. The Graphic Communications Union, representing workers in the pressroom, is an International Union with between 130 and 140 workers currently working without a contract to put out the city's only major daily newspaper.
The rally, attended by G.C.I.U. members from Los Angeles, Washington D.C. and as far away as Canada, was loud and boisterous. Enthusiastic Teamster members loaned support by rolling their huge 18-wheeler up and down the street, followed by the Union's own Stink-Mobile, a van painted like a skunk with the slogan "Something Stinks at the Union Tribune", in large display.
According to the president of G.C.I.U. local 432, Jack Finneran, workers have been laboring in the pressroom for over nine years with no pay raise. Additionally, new workers coming in as apprentices are starting at way below the wage new workers nine years ago started at. Because of this, career pressman, employees of the Union Tribune for twenty to thirty years, have been forced to sell their homes and move their families to towns with papers that pay better wages, creating an unprecedented turnover in workers. Additionally, Union workers are forced to pay 0.00 dollars each month for health insurance, while Non-Union workers and Management pay as little as .00 dollars a month for the same insurance. "They could easily include the Union workers in the company pool and save them hundreds of dollars", says Finneran, "but they prefer to put the money in the pockets of the insurance companies. They are doing this out of pure meanness".
The paper runs a steady stream of union busting techniques, including harassment of union leaders that it employs. Jeff Alger, Secretary/Treasurer of San Diego local 432, and, according to him, an exemplary employee for 11 years prior to becoming a union officer, says he has been suspended 13 times without pay since becoming elected to office; always, coincidentally, after making an appearance on a local television or radio show on behalf of the union and the worker's struggle. Another tactic designed to create hardship for Union members, has been to discontinue the Union Pension, causing workers to lose thousands of dollars of their own money.
All of these tactics, instead of causing the men and women of the G.C.I.U. and their families to back down, has created a deep and meaningful resolve to continue on. This resolve, over a nine-year period, has garnered the attention and support of the San Diego community, normally known for its conservatism. This support, apparent in the cars honking their horns as they passed by the rally, is even more importantly evident in the 55 thousand drop in circulation since the union called for a boycott against subscribing to or buying advertising in the paper. Because of this support, the Union and workers alike are confident that they will soon have a working contract with the San Diego Union Tribune, and that this battle will serve to strengthen workers causes everywhere.