Pulse: Power: Teamster Trouble

While the revived Evening Bulletin has skewered everyone from John Street to Howard Dean, there is one sacred cow that Philly’s newest paper may come to regret offending — unions.

Most every Philadelphia newspaper pays a member of Teamsters Local 628 upwards of $24 an hour to drive its papers back from the printing plant. So when Local 628 heard last fall that the new Bulletin would be opening in a small Walnut Street office, two business agents paid a visit, to “see when we should report for work,” says Local president John Laigaie. When they were politely told there would be no need for their services, Laigaie says, the Teamsters were “very hurt.”
Soon the Bulletin was hurting as well. Just before its first issue came out, Teamsters staged a protest. When its non-union contractors tried to hawk the paper to pedestrians, the Bulletin staff had to supplement them in the streets. The Teamsters, meantime, sent advertisers a letter suggesting they take their linage elsewhere. Some even got personal visits, to “let them know the outrage in the community,” says Laigaie. “The way the law is, if we do too much else, we get in trouble.”

It’s debatable whether the Bulletin would be able to make it even in the free-est of markets. As the paper approaches its 150th issue, it would seem the city has given it a gruff welcome at best. If it survives, credit its editor, Kevin Williamson, a 32-year-old Texan who writes at least seven editorials and two columns a week, while editing and laying out most of the rest. Also a clever guerrilla marketer, Williamson likes to fill the saddlebags of his trusty Suzuki Volusia with papers and leave them on area Starbucks tables. “Our plan has always been to produce a really high-­quality newspaper,” he says. “We still believe, perhaps naively, that if we do that, everything else will fall into place.”