By: Debra Gersh Hernandez
SOME 300 ATTENDEES of the A. Philip Randolph Institute’s Washington convention recently were joined by local labor leaders for a lunchtime rally in front of the National Press Building in support of the striking Detroit newspaper workers.
The conventioneers from APRI ? a coalition of African-American service unions ? were bused to the site from their downtown hotel and met up with about 50 people from the Newspaper Guild, Communications Workers of America, Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, Teamsters, AFL-CIO and others at a plaza about a block from the press building.
Undeterred by the drenching midday rain, the picketers ? many of whom wore news box-sized signs glued back to back and open on the bottom as head gear ? chanted and marched under a covered patio area adjacent to the building’s entrance.
Among the placards were some calling for the National Press Building to evict the Detroit News and Free Press bureaus.
TNG President Linda Foley said of the calls for eviction, “Obviously, that’s what people feel strongly about,” but she added that the Guild was not pushing the issue.
Washington bureau staffers for the Detroit News are exempt and not Guild-covered. Neither of the two Free Press staffers in the Knight-Ridder bureau are Guild members; one resigned from the Guild when she came back to work after the strike started, and the other was hired just before it started and never joined.
Among the speakers at the rally were Shawn Ellis and his teenage daughter, who drove about 9 hours from Detroit with four other striking workers.
“It’s worth driving the 18 hours to come here to see the support,” Ellis said, adding that the strikers “in Detroit are aware of the support.”
Similar rallies have been held around the country, including at Gannett corporate headquarters in Arlington, Va., just across the river from Washington, D.C.