A Slight Omission

You may have missed it, but a small wire story buried in the November 12 edition of the Houston Chronicle reported that the Chicago Tribune had sent a "handful" of employees to fill in for striking reporters and production workers at the San Francisco Chronicle, and that other newspapers had likewise been asked to dispatch personnel to the City By The Bay and help publish the strikebound Chronicle.

The story noted that the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Examiner, which are paired in a "joint operating agreement," at the time were being struck by 2,600 journalists, printers, drivers and other workers. But what it conveniently failed to mention was that the Houston Chronicle itself had donated three journalists from its staff to aid the Examiner, which is, like the Houston Chronicle, owned by the New York-based Hearst Corporation. The three volunteers had to cross picket lines, but were rewarded with $900 weekly payments, plus up to 18 hours overtime and free boarding at a Frisco hotel. Minor violence associated with the strike and the accidental electrocution of an alleged union saboteur made the duty a bit more hazardous than the usual routine workday at 801 Texas Avenue in downtown Houston.

The Hearst Corporation's request for volunteers was relayed to the Houston Chronicle staff by executive editor Jack Loftis. Several editorial department heads, however, did not pass it on to reporters (none of whom volunteered for the assignment). "The reaction was almost unanimous that they were asking for scabs," says one writer. "You might look good to management for going, but you'd look like a shit to your peers for working against brother journalists." The three management-level staffers who did go -- deputy managing editor Tommy Miller, deputy associate editor Frank Michel and features copy editor Mike Lonsford -- arrived in San Francisco just in time for the settlement of the strike and are now back on the job in Houston. The hometown Chronicle is not likely to have similar problems or require reciprocal assistance from its San Francisco brethren, since a successful campaign by management decertified the last of the paper's in-house unions more than a year ago.

--Tim Fleck

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