Detroit strike stirs NABJ strife p.13

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By: Tony Case

Recruiters, strikers square off in Philadelphia; Times Mirror recruits, despite cutbacks sp.

STRIKERS FROM DETROIT’S two daily newspapers and the managers sent to replace them faced off at the annual National Association of Black Journalists job fair last week in Philadelphia.
Representatives of the 2,500 Detroit News and Free Press employees who walked off the job July 13 told job seekers to be wary of editors bearing promises.
“The Detroit newsrooms are currently staffed by a motley crew of anxious managers, staffers from other papers and Newspaper Guild members who have crossed the picket line,” said a union flier distributed at NABJ’s convention. “None of them are happy to be there, and they won’t be happy working with you.”
The Free Press ? which is publishing a joint edition with the News during the labor conflict ? passed out its own leaflet, insisting that journalists hired during the strike “will remain even if striking employees return.”
The strikers say don’t believe it.
The six unions currently bargaining with Detroit Newspapers, business agent for the News and Free Press, have charged management with unfair labor practices and have asked the National Labor Relations Board to investigate. If the unions win their case, hiring permanent replacement workers would be forbidden.
“The people on the picket line would get their jobs back and you could well lose yours,” the striking employees contended.
Luther Keith, assistant managing editor for Gannett Co.’s Detroit News, said, “We’re faced with a very serious business reality. If you don’t publish your product, then you won’t have a product after a while. We need to keep our product before the public, and we need people to do that.”
Keith says the News intends to hire permanent, full-time replacements, unless it is legally prevented from doing so.
Joe Grimm, recruitment and development editor for Knight-Ridder Inc.’s Free Press, said several candidates told him they were willing to go to work during the strike, despite some concerns. Most had read about the strike and had seen the union’s leaflet.
“It would be abnormal for us not to be here, because we’re always here,” the editor said. “We made plans to attend NABJ before the strike happened.”
Grimm noted that the Free Press was looking not just for replacements but also to fill positions unrelated to the strike, to talk to prospective interns and to publicize its own job fair in November.
Also recruiting at NABJ were several of Times Mirror Co.’s big dailies, including the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and Hartford Courant. This, even though the parent company has instituted major cost-cutting measures ? most notably, shutting down New York Newsday.
Susan Denley, head of editorial hiring and development at the Times, said that although 150 newsroom positions had been eliminated, the paper was still looking to develop contacts.

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