MONDAY, DECEMBER 4 Being on strike is serious business, but heck, who says it's always gotta suck? Today, Times reporter John Zebrowski celebrated his 30th birthday in front of the Times building, complete with a cake, streamers, toys, a piñata, and grub (veggie dogs!). Watching our peers whack the shit out of a pink dinosaur piñata proved to be a dangerous and hilarious distraction from the grim brigade of managers who had walked through the picket line earlier. Having successfully avoided being blinded and/or eviscerated by the wild, swinging, pointy stick that (eventually) proved the undoing of the piñata, we raised the stakes and moved on to risking life and limb by running in and out of heavy traffic at Fairview and Denny, handing out copies of the Seattle Union Record to cars stopping for red lights. Some drivers rolled up their cars' windows and locked their doors when they saw us approach. Note to these knuckleheads: If I really wanted to carjack you, I wouldn't approach you in broad daylight carrying a picket sign, blowing a neon pink whistle, and lugging an armload of newspapers.
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 5 I was looking down the barrel of the third week of this strike, and honestly, I couldn't seem to remember a time when I wasn't on strike. Jesus, what the hell happened to my long-term memory? Gone is the pang of anxiety I felt when I had interviews and deadlines pending; the only pang I felt today was a blister inside my throat from that hot-as-hell veggie dog I'd eaten the day before. I wept for all the Norma Rae-esque stories I could've told had I been bumped by a scab truck or throttled by a Vance Security goon outside the Times. No. My injury was food-related. Felled by a veggie dog. God, how embarrassing. Let's face it, I'd make a crappy martyr.
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 6 Heartbreak: I spot a familiar face through the tinted windows of a scab van leaving the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Hell, at least I know for sure that this person really crossed. Out here, every potential crosser is treated like Ferris Bueller playing hooky. "Has anyone seen [fill in conspicuous absentee's name here]?" "Um, my cousin's uncle's doctor's niece, who is best friends with [conspicuous absentee person's] neighbor, said that he was talking to this girl at a bar who said that [he/she] has crossed." Word on the street was that management didn't like the party atmosphere in front of the P-I, so columnist Susan Paynter showed up dressed in some sort of mourning shroud, complete with veil. Before that shift ended, the line was buzzing with a report on KIRO radio that said we'd be back at the bargaining table by Friday. Glory.
··Also today: On call for the Union Record until midnight, I went manic and proceeded to bleach the loo and scrub my nappy orange bedroom rug. Manic? Who's manic? No, no. Everything is JUST FINE twitch, twitch>.
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 7 Pulled a midnight-4 am shift at the North Creek printing plant, where trucks loaded with both the P-I and the Times rolled out after midnight. Tough-talkin' Teamsters hung out around the burn barrel, sipped coffee, and gave me grief about the CDs I'd brought ("Rap? Is that even music? You got any Jeff Foxworthy? How about CCR?"). Loved these folks--not one word of whining, no doom-and-gloom predictions. Instead, they heckled the scab drivers who clearly sucked at driving those huge trucks. The scabs bumbled and ground gears, loudly stripped clutches, had no idea which lights to use (I saw a few trucks head down the road with their reverse lights blinking), and a couple of these geniuses even pulled out onto the wrong side of the road.
··Also today: Visited the P-I picket line in the afternoon and saw that two sweethearts (not employed by either paper) had brought by a massive sound system, complete with generator.
··Later: Couldn't sleep, thinking about going back to the table the next day, and I'd ran out of things to clean in my apartment. Dammit, dammit. Dammit.
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8 Negotiations: Round II, Day I. Okay, so we weren't officially negotiating today. We were "talking," but that's a tough (and meaningless) distinction to make. It also freaks out the nervous Nellies to no end.
Nervous Nellie: "Well, how about bargaining instead of just talking?"
Me: "Bargaining? What a goddamn great idea. Brilliant. Me, I was just happy being on strike."
Can't say much about the nuts and bolts of today's meeting, but let's put it this way: Looking down 11 floors, I pictured myself splattered on the sidewalk and smiled--hell, it couldn't hurt more than sitting through that crap.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 9 Tonight, the P-I threw its company shindig for scabs and editors (note: scabs choose to cross the picket line; editors get fired if they don't) at the Shilshole Marina. The rest of the P-I staff went to reporter Tom Paulson's place for our own Christmas party. Management was invited; scabs weren't. Amazingly enough, some editors did show up. We weren't supposed to talk about the strike, but c'mon, what the heck were we supposed to talk about?
Editor: "So, what have you been up to for the last couple of weeks?"
Reporter: "Oh, not much. Spending lots of time outdoors. Yourself?"
Jayzus. Was sad to hear that most editors were still in the dark about what was going on. It must suck to work 14-hour days and not know why--at least I know why the hell I'm on strike. (FYI: I'm on strike because the contract that was offered was not fair, and I don't believe the company was negotiating with us in good faith.) Was also told that editors have a betting pool for when the strike will end.
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 10 "Talks": Round II, Day II--Christ on a crutch. Today, the Times and the P-I broke off talks, saying there was no point in talking to us any further. Gee, I would've thought the 900-or-so striking employees might've been a good reason. Guess not. Also spent the day fuming over the conversation I had with a Times reporter late last night. He told me about how his editor had called him up to tell him that if he didn't get his ass back to work by Monday, he'd lose his job. Never mind that this is illegal. Never mind that it's morally reprehensible. Well, actually, mind both of those things, because (here come the kicker), this poor fool was defending his editor, saying that he wasn't sure if the editor was calling him to warn him "as a friend" or to threaten him. Note to anyone who is ever faced with this situation: The person calling you--telling you to choose between your job and honoring your peers' picket line--is not doing you a favor. He is not warning you; he is threatening you. Illegally. Capisce?
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