"It's about time we won one," said a striking mailer from Detroit, referring to the successful labor mobilization on September 2 that halted shipment of scab papers. The 3,000 strikers and supporters from other unions showed what's possible when working people organize and use the strength of their numbers against company union busting and cop provocations.
The mass picketing at the Detroit newspapers' printing plant was one of the widespread solidarity actions taken by thousands of working people throughout the area. Not only do many unionists visit the picket lines, but thousands of working-class families refuse to buy the scab paper the company is publishing. Even the big-business press admits tens of thousands of subscriptions have been canceled.
Workers can see that the bosses are dead serious about breaking the strike and will use any means at their disposal. They attempted to drive a truck into unarmed pickets and called up hundreds of cops in riot gear to intimidate the strikers or crack their heads if they could get away with it. The behavior of the cops in Detroit is no different from that of their cohorts in Los Angeles or Philadelphia. Their function is to protect the property of the rich and terrorize working people when we get "out of line" by fighting for our rights.
But the Detroit newspaper strikers refuse to back down or be intimidated by the viciousness of the police. Like the Caterpillar strikers, they are determined to stand up and fight back against the bosses and the cops and win broader support. Unionists from other areas should build solidarity for these strikers. Students and other young fighters, including those involved in the struggle against the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, should visit the picket lines.
Some union officials have aimed their fire at immigrant workers who management is using in its attempt to break the strike. This is wrong and deadly for the labor movement. Anytime the bosses can foster divisions among working people, it weakens the labor movement as a whole. Trade unionists must reject this scapegoating.
While the big-business media attempts to brand the strikers as violence-prone, the labor movement must put its weight behind this struggle. The record in Detroit shows that it is the boss class, with its private goon squads and friendly assistance from riot police, that is responsible for violence. The employers are squealing like pigs now because the strikers have scored some gains through mass picketing and other effective methods of struggle.
One popular sports writer who crossed the picket line wrote a column declaring, "Enough" to explain why he had given up the struggle. The writer told the New York Times he did not want to be seen as supporting either side and that both sides in the dispute were wrong.
Well he may cry "uncle," but millions of working people around the world want to be treated as human beings, not beasts of burden. They have little trouble seeing the differences between the two sides of the newspaper battle. Those strikers who are continuing their fight for justice will inspire others to take on the bosses' union-busting and assaults on workers' standard of living.
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