Richard Cohen's column "Look Who's Killing the N.Y. Daily News" {op-ed, Dec. 4} ignores two basic facts about the strike.

Fact one is that the Chicago Tribune Company, owners of the Daily News, looked for, wanted and ultimately was able to provoke the strike by nine unions. The essence of labor management relations in the United States is collective bargaining. That has been true since the mid-1930s. The News, instead of seeking to use this long-established process to reach an agreement, adopted the Saddam Hussein approach to bargaining -- no prisoners, no concessions and no agreement.

And if collective bargaining is the basis for peaceful labor relations, then third party fact-finding is a useful, accepted tool to reach that goal. The News rejected the efforts of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, acting pursuant to state law, to have an independent body attempt to define the issues separating the publisher and the unions. And it has rejected informal efforts by New York City Mayor David Dinkins, Cardinal John O'Connor and the Rev. Jesse Jackson to resolve the dispute. This stubborn refusal to accept mediation or conciliation from any source underscores the alienation of the News from the leaders and citizens of New York.

Fact two is that the unions representing employees at The News are the same unions representing employees at The New York Times and The New York Post. The union members at the Post just voted to reduce their wage package by $19 million to save that paper. The Post pressmen, who belong to the same local union that Richard Cohen so glibly calls "corrupt," took a 31 percent wage cut. The members of the Newspaper Guild took a 35 percent cut. Why? Because the Post management came to its employees and in good faith explained what it would take to turn the paper around.

These same local unions are engaged in discussions with the New York Times about what it will take to keep that paper profitable and growing. The point is that where management is honest and forthright with its employees, the employees and their unions will do what is necessary both for their own interests to preserve their jobs and to preserve a newspaper for the readers. One can hardly characterize the management of the Daily News as honest and forthright. Even Richard Cohen didn't go that far.

Mr. Cohen in two places refers to the Pressmen's Local as corrupt. New York Local 2-N of the Graphic Communications International Union is not and never has been corrupt. Unlike publishers, editors and corporate executives, union leaders are chosen by the membership in free, democratic elections.

Mr. Cohen also labels the entire New York citizenry as "mindlessly pro-union." I regard that as a mark of their civic pride, common sense and commitment to justice. Almost 20 years ago, Hubert Humphrey said, "America is a living testimonial to what free men and women, organized in free democratic trade unions, can do to make a better life. ... We ought to be proud of it."

New Yorkers apparently are proud of their city's labor heritage and tradition. They are voting every day by not buying or advertising in the Daily News to reaffirm the principles of real trade unionism. It is hoped that their support of the News' employees will either bring an absentee management to its senses and back to the bargaining table or convince the Chicago Tribune Co. that New York is no place for its savage anti-unionism. The Tribune can then sell the paper to people who understand New York City's sense of justice and decency and the employees' commitment to keep the News in business.

JAMES J. NORTON President Graphic Communications International Union Washington