Both Sides Offer Outlook On Detroit Strike p.9

By: Editorial Staff AS THE STRIKE against the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and their joint agency moves toward its 600th day, it remains full of sound and fury.
But as for what it signifies, that remains a matter of perspective.
From inside the Detroit News building, 615 Lafayette Boulevard ? headquarters of Detroit Newspapers and future home of the Free Press ? the strike is visibly running out of steam.
"There was a rally at lunch time . . . today with probably 30 people in front of the building doing peaceful [picketing]. And . . . I only recognized five or six people ? the rest were all wearing UAW [United Auto Worker] jackets," Detroit Newspapers senior vice president/labor Timothy J. Kelleher said in a telephone interview Feb. 3.
Detroit Newspapers' security director, John Anthony, predicts this will be the last year the newspapers will need the expensive services of the Vance International security company.
"I think '98 will be the first year when we can . . . let the Vance guards go home," Anthony told the recent Newspaper Association of America Newspaper Operations SuperConference in Orlando, Fla.
But strikers from the six production, circulation and editorial unions that walked out July 13, 1995 say newspaper management is ? as usual ? whistling past the graveyard.
"Momentum is clearly building," strike spokes- Enters 20th month full of sound and fury woman Nancy Dunn, a striking Free Press copy editor, said."Everybody is tired," she added. "The strikers are tired of the strike. The community is tired of the strike. The business people are tired of this. [The newspaper] can't . . . regain their goodwill if they continue on this path. They thought we would dry up and blow away ? and we've done anything but that."
The most recent union push in the strike began Dec. 30 when 30 people from a group of 300 protesters sat down at the entrance of the Riverfront printing plant in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the historic General Motors sit-down strike at Flint, Mich.
That action began a campaign the unions are calling Shutdown Motown '97.
On Jan. 12, a group of about 100 strikers and supporters stopped traffic in downtown Detroit for about two and a half hours.
A week later, on Jan. 18, strikers and supporters blocked traffic at the Ambassador Bridge between the United States and Canada for about a half hour. Later the same day, the group briefly halted traffic at the entrance of the Windsor Tunnel border crossing.
"We think this campaign is essential," strike spokeswoman Dunn said. "To the general public it is somewhat inconvenient, but we think this is a community problem that needs a community solution."
Dunn said the strikers have encountered "very little outright hostility" from motorists delayed by the protests.
A leaflet passed out during the protest said those inconvenienced should "blame Frank Vega [chief executive officer] of Detroit Newspapers. He and his out-of-state bosses from Gannett and Knight-Ridder have made 2,000 families suffer for 18 months. These corporate criminals broke their promises, pushed loyal workers out the door and refused to bargain."
Neither, however, has the campaign much moved officials at Detroit Newspapers.
Management negotiation head Kelleher said the newspapers did file a grievance against the unions for the Riverfront protest, which he said violated the unions' agreement not to block entrances or exits at newspaper facilities.
Because the other actions do not affect the newspapers or its advertisers, Kelleher said, the newspapers haven't had any reaction.
Smaller groups of strikers and sympathizers have staged protests in New York, Boston and Washington, targeting Knight-Ridder and Gannett board members. Four strikers and six supporters were arrested in New York City Jan. 21 after being refused a meeting with Rockefeller Foundation President Peter Goldmark Jr., a Knight-Ridder director.
Detroit Newspapers' Kelleher suggested strikers would do better to "come to the table and negotiate."
"There's been no progress and very few meetings," Kelleher said. "And at most of the meetings the union position has remained the same."
Speaking to the NAA SuperConference, Detroit Newspapers security director John Anthony portrayed management as hardened by the violence of the strike ? and unlikely to fold under pressure now.
"Frank Vega is the CEO," Anthony told the conference. "Frank Vega, for those of you who don't know him, is a street guy. He's got big cojones, which is what you need for this. He's the right guy for the right job."


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