Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Wasting away

By awoodall
Monday, July 23rd, 2007 at 9:47 pm in Uncategorized.

I don’t know how many readers are getting sick of the daily coverage of the Waste Management lockout talks. Me, I’m reaching saturation. But here’s a story you won’t read about anywhere else: How an Oakland Tribune reporter could have stalled the talks, leading to yet more suffering as garbage piles up. That should tell you just how splendidly the talks are going.

This intrepid reporter was working Sunday, which meant being the only journalist allowed anywhere near the Waste Management-Local 70-City of Oakland negotiations,  being held in the Federal Mediation Center. It just happens the center and the Trib share the same building. So, about 3 p.m. I rode four flights down to seek out the  Waste Management spokesman. Expecting to find a hallway littered with burly garbagemen, unshaven union reps and Waste Management execs in Armani suits, all I found wa an empty hallway. The only sign of life was voices coming from an open door. Since the door was cracked, and there were voices, I figured that would be a good start in finding the spokesman. WRONG. I rapped on the door with the middle knuckle of my right hand only to be set upon a few minutes later by the federal mediator, who would have been less surprised at the second coming of Christ than he was to see  a reporter standing in front of him. I guess he wasn’t told that a NEWSPAPER shares the building. Hello….

Later a security guard chided me on my excursion, warning me that no reporters are allowed in the building. “It’s management policy,” she assured me.  

Hello, again: An entire newsroom is upstairs.   

By interupting, I could jeapordize the future of the ultra-tense negotiations, at least according to the mediator, who added that the negotiators were behind the door I had knocked on.  Right. So, things were going that well, huh?

He showed me to the correct suite, where the people I was seeking actually were, then the situation actually got weirder.

After calling my editor to complain, the manager of the building management company showed up with a security guard outside the Trib’s suite. They suggested, said the gallant editor who spoke to them, that I wait in the parking lot with other reporters. (They were outside because no one is allowed in the building after hours or on weekends except tenants who have been listed by their bosses. When a Chron photographer slipped in with me Sunday on the search for his writer, Henry Lee, he was summarily told to exit through the same way he came in. The management company is incredibly uptight, but that’s another story.) Afterward, a guard was posted to the center’s floor, which was strictly off limits to me.

Here’s a reminder, folks: Reporters knock on doors. And, for the record, I did NOT pound on the door as the mediation folks claimed. But I would do it if it were appropriate. I have to say thanks to my editors, who reminded the management company and the negotiators of that fact.  

Anyway, if I had wanted to snoop, I would have listened to the talks through the open door. So, they were lucky I knocked.

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