As a protest to mark the first anniversary of the expiration of the Newspaper Guild contract with The Washington Post Co., a number of reporters, columnists, photographers and news artists asked that their names be removed from work published in The Post today and tomorrow.
The action comes about a month after Post company negotiators made what they described as their "last and best contract offer." Tom Sherwood, chairman of the Post Guild unit, said the byline strike was called to emphasize what has been "a very long year" since the last three-year contract expired.
Sherwood, a reporter at The Post, said that although bylines or credit lines might not be missed by casual readers, "it sends a message . . . to the company and to the newspaper industry as a whole . . . that there's something wrong at The Post."
The Post's vice president for personnel, John B. Kuhns, said: "We very much want a new contract with the Guild and have been negotiating in good faith for 15 months now. On June 3, we made our last and best contract offer, which contains an economic package providing increases averaging between 4 and 5 percent annually."
Kuhns, who said The Post management offer "compares favorably with Guild settlements elsewhere and union settlements in the country generally," said the newspaper union had not yet responded to the latest proposal in writing.
Kuhns said that "The Post pays good salaries and will continue to do so. Our average reporter's annual salary is in excess of $50,000. However, we can't agree to unrealistic contract demands."
Sherwood said the Guild made a counterproposal this week orally and that its offer probably would be submitted in writing next week.
According to Sandi Polaski, administrative officer and chief negotiator for the Washington-Baltimore Local 35 of the Newspaper Guild, the major sticking points include salary levels, overtime policies and changes in the medical plan.
Polaski said The Post's pay system, which established a lower minimum pay scale for workers hired after 1976, gives tremendous discretion to managers and "causes pay discrimination by race and sex."
"We're not talking about what happens to the average fudge ripple, unisex person," Polaski said. "The average pay for a black female reporter is approximately $10,000 less than a white male reporter."
She also said that under the medical plan proposed by The Post, employes who now would have hospitalization covered at 100 percent would be forced to pay 20 percent of hospital costs up to $500 for individuals and $1,500 for families.
The company plan also would end payroll deductions for Guild dues, a proposal that Guild leaders see as potentially devastating to their union. There are about 850 members at The Post. A new three-year contract would cover about 1,100 editorial and commercial employes.
Asked about Polaski's comments, Kuhns said yesterday, "Our position is that our salaries absolutely do not discriminate against minorities or females. Individual salaries are based on merit, length of service with the company and prior experience." Kuhns also said that although there is more cost-sharing on hospitalization in the new plan, "there are also new benefits, such as improved dental care and vision care."
Columnists who participated in the protest are missing from today's editions because Post editors decided it was not possible to run analysis or opinion pieces without identifying the author.