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Pickets to protest Tribune contracts

Local 79 of the Teamsters union, which represents some 215 part-time workers at the Tampa Tribune, will begin informational pickets against the paper Wednesday, a union official said Sunday. Union local president Robert Cummins made the announcement to about 50 Tribune employees and spouses Sunday at local headquarters.

Cummins said the union is taking the action after trying for more than a year and a half to negotiate a contract for the employees who work as inserters in the paper's mail room and who do not receive benefits because they are part time.

The paper has, according to Cummins, created a system in which part-time workers are "second-class citizens."

The Teamsters will be joined in their picketing by members of Local 14318 of the Communications Workers of America, which represents 162 Tribune drivers and mechanics. The communications workers union has been negotiating a new contract with the paper's management since June 1989, according to John Vitale, local president. The union's contract expired in August 1989.

Neither H. Doyle Harvill, publisher, nor Jim Urbanski, president of the Tribune, could be reached for comment.

Cummins told those at the Teamsters local that the union wanted to avoid an economic strike because it would be "devastating to too many of you."

Pickets will be carrying posters bearing slogans such as "A free press does not mean free labor!" and "I can't afford to feed my children on the wages paid by the Tribune without food stamps."

"We work 40, 50, 60 hours and we don't get any benefits," said Connie Burton, who has been working at the Tribune for three and a half years and earns the top hourly wage of $6.25.

Several workers expressed concern that they would be penalized for participating in the informational picketing despite Cummins' reassurances that they are within their legal rights to do so. Many said they would participate anyway.