Return To The Table In Detroit p.10

By: Mark Fitzgerald Striking unions and management restart talks under federal
mediation; sides remain far apart; more strikers cross picket lines sp.

BOTH SIDES IN the Detroit newspapers strike remained hunkered down for a long fight after briefly emerging to negotiate under the aegis of a federal mediator.
As the strike lengthened into its seventh week, these were major developments:
? Separate talks aimed at restarting stalled negotiations were held Aug. 17 between the newspapers, their agency and six striking unions.
Little progress was reported in the talks between the newspapers and the two Newspaper Guild locals ? and talks with the Teamsters served only to show the sides are growing further apart.
The Detroit Newspaper Agency (DNA), which runs production and business operations of Gannett Co.'s Detroit News and Knight-Ridder Inc.'s Detroit Free Press, announced that because of the anticipated long-term effects of the strike, it would need to cut even more Teamster jobs in mailroom and circulation operations.
? The National Labor Relations Board's Region 7 office in Detroit issued an unfair labor practice complaint against the DNA and said the joint operating agency unlawfully reneged on an agreement to bargain economic issues with all six unions as a group.
Striking unions said the NLRB complaint bolstered their argument that since they are engaged in a strike brought on by management's unfair labor practice, they cannot lose their jobs to permanent replacements.
By itself, however, the single complaint is not enough to trigger that finding by the NLRB. For its part, the DNA said the complaint was unjustified.
"We believe that at all times we bargained properly with the unions," said DNA chief executive Frank Vega.
? The Detroit Free Press ordered its Guild-represented newsroom employees to return to work by Aug. 11 or face permanent replacement ? and many obeyed.
At the Free Press, 117 of 265 employees who went out on strike were back on the job by Aug. 24, said Susie Ellwood, the DNA's vice president of market development.
At the News, 71 former or current Guild members crossed the picket line, Ellwood said. Some 190 newsroom workers were unionized when the strike began.
Both papers have so far hired only a few replacement journalists, but they have advertised widely for replacements.
? Some 98 production workers have crossed the picket lines, Ellwood said. At the start of the strike, there were about 2,000 unionized production workers.
About 800 replacement workers have been hired, Ellwood said.
? Editorially, the strike edition, combining the News and Free Press seven days a week, began to look more and more like a normal combined Saturday or Sunday edition.
Many familiar columnists have returned and, in contrast to the first weeks of the strike, the labor dispute itself is no longer constant front-page news.
? Advertisers, however, are still not coming back to the paper in the way management officials had predicted.
Some are concerned about circulation levels while others are heeding advertising boycotts being conducted by union locals ? and several major international unions.
For instance, the United Auto Workers is asking its Michigan locals to urge members not to patronize auto dealerships that "advertise in the scab newspapers."
? Sporadic episodes of minor violence continued. Strikers were arrested in an incident at the Sterling Heights production plant. A driver's personal vehicle was firebombed. And tires were punctured on delivery trucks.
?( An injured demonstrator uses his shirt to dab blood off himself after being hit in the head during a clash Aug. 19 between police and strike supporters at the Detroit Newspapers production plant in Sterling Heights, Mich. Several strikers were arrested and several more were injured.) [Photo & Caption]


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