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— Big labor in San Diego has been on a roll, what with victories in the convention center and Prop 226 campaigns last week. But today the local labor movement faces a moment of truth at the San Diego Union-Tribune. A management-inspired vote is being held on whether to keep the Newspaper Guild, the labor union that represents a dwindling number of about 800 U-T workers. A source says that representatives from the Copley Press, the outfit that owns the paper, have gone all out to convince union members to ditch the guild. Wavering union supporters are said to have been invited to everything from intimate coffee klatches with U-T chieftain Gene Bell to gratis Padres games, complete with a corporate box and plenty of free booze. The pitch is that 21st-century newspaper workers won't need union representation because the U-T has turned over a new leaf and won't fight hard against raises and better working conditions. A flashy company-sponsored video features U-T editor Karin Winner urging reporters to throw the union out. Skeptics maintain that U-T management is lying and can't be trusted to deliver the goodies it's promising now without the union standing guard. Only one problem with that theory: the guild has had declining influence over management ever since members voted to turn tail and run during landmark contract negotiations about a decade ago. Says one worried staffer and guild member: "If we lose this one, we'll never see incremental pay raises again."

Give 'em the birds

Birds, especially seagulls, are said to be getting out of hand around Lindbergh Field, posing a serious safety threat to planes and passengers. Though the severe problem has been kept hush-hush by the Union-Tribune so as not to disrupt the tourist biz, the port district, which has poured more than $300 million and counting into a cost-plagued airport expansion, is quietly advertising for "bird-abatement services." Deadline for proposals is June 19 ... Tonight show host Jay Leno recently put on a private show for the Brinson Partners' Global Portfolio Management Conference, a bunch of 150 Wall Street types, held at Carlsbad's ritzy Four Seasons Resort Aviara. Sources say the comedian pulled down a quick $50,000 and his TV gig that night was a repeat ... A landslide near Golden, Colorado, has attracted a herd of lawyers from San Diego. According to an account in the Rocky Mountain News, last week the group of unidentified attorneys showed up at a housing development threatened by the slide and distributed fliers inviting homeowners to a meeting for prospective clients.

Highbrow, lowbrow

Qualcomm, the San Diego cell-phone giant that has been enmeshed in controversies over everything from stadiums to Russian spies to mainland Chinese telephones, is in yet another fight. This time the hometown favorite is facing off in Washington, D.C., against Ericsson, a Swedish electronics powerhouse, and Nokia, a well-established Finnish outfit, over cell-phone standards. Will it be the Qualcomm-invented Code Division for Multiple Access (CDMA) or the Ericsson-preferred Global System for Mobile (GSM)? At stake is billions of dollars, and Qualcomm is fighting hard to get the U.S. Congress to lean on the United Nations to make sure that CDMA wins out as the U.N.'s official choice. Besides arguing the various merits of the two systems, both Qualcomm and its adversaries are deploying a corps of expensive lobbyists, said to be costing millions of dollars ... A closely held La Jolla outfit, General Atomics, wants to buy U.S. Enrichment Corporation, a federally owned company that runs the world's largest uranium-enrichment operation, for about $1.6 billion. Problem is, say critics like Joseph Stiglitz, chief economist for the World Bank and former chairman of Bill Clinton's Council of Economic Advisors, the sale would be "bad national security" and "bad economic policy." He fears that U.S. Enrichment's current program to buy 500 tons of processed uranium from the old Soviet Union would be dropped by the new owner, thus allowing the material to circulate on the terrorist black market.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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