BY JOHN SARGE
DETROIT - "We've seen the future and it stinks," Michael Moran, a member of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 58, told the press. Moran and seven other electricians joined the newspaper strike here November 8.
"Detroit Newspapers want to operate a nonunion, antiunion work place. That's unfair and it's unsafe," Moran said, "because we know that if the company succeeds in breaking their unions, we'll be next."
The electricians joined the four-month-old strike by 2,500 workers because safety conditions in the newspaper plant "are deplorable," Moran explained. "The replacement workers have not been properly trained and they are not observing safety rules."
The IBEW has a contract which allows union members to honor picket lines of other unions, but the union's officials have not called the electricians out. About 20 other Local 58 members, along with a handful of members of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) and the Operating Engineers, continue to work in Detroit News and Free Press facilities, which are run jointly by the Detroit Newspaper Agency.
The newspapers signed contracts with maintenance workers before they forced a strike on July 13 by members of six union locals from the Graphic Communications International Union, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Communication Workers of America, and Newspaper Guild.
The latest additions to the walkout buoyed many strikers' spirits. Floyd Davis Jr., a striking pressman, remarked, "I love it. Next we need the Machinists to come out; then the newspapers would be in worse trouble."
The striking unions and their supporters have announced a series of actions to win new support for their fight. The Metropolitan Council of Newspaper Unions has called a strike support rally and concert for December 3. The rally, which will include labor leaders, strikers, and others, is scheduled for 2 p.m. at the State Fairgrounds coliseum in Detroit.
A dinner and dance to raise money for a Christmas fund has been called for November 17 by the Labor/Commun ity/Religious Coalition in Support of the Newspaper Strikers. The unions have stepped up a consumer boycott of retailers who continue to advertise in the struck newspapers. Union locals across the metropolitan area have "adopted" locations and organize leafleting teams at them. The United Auto Workers (UAW) report success in getting about five auto dealers a week to pull their ads.
The strikers have set the Thanksgiving weekend as a target for expanded outreach. Leafleting at stores that continue to advertise will be increased. They plan to be present at the Thanksgiving Day parade in Detroit, which is sponsored by a major advertiser.
Members of the striking unions have also announced that starting November 19 southeast Michigan residents will have a new Sunday newspaper, the Detroit Sunday Journal. The newspaper will be supplied to locations that refuse to sell the two struck papers and will soon be available for home delivery. Some union locals plan to help get the paper sold at large factories in the region.
Stephen Yokich, UAW international president, announced this week that each active striker will receive a $150 Thanksgiving donation from the auto workers union. "We at the UAW knew that with the approaching holiday, strikers were short of money," Yokich said. "We felt this was the best thing we could do as you continue your struggle."
The strikers continue to organize themselves and their supporters for all-night mass picketing at distribution centers every Saturday. The Sunday edition is the most profitable of the week, and the striking unions want to keep the pressure on by disrupting its delivery.
On Saturday, November 11, over 100 unionists gathered early in the evening to protest the court-imposed limits on picketing at the main newspaper printing plant in the suburb of Sterling Heights.
They then adjourned to one of the two union halls on opposite sides of Detroit that are used to dispatch the picketing teams some time after 11 p.m. Three hundred other unionists joined them. Three distribution centers were picketed until 6 a.m.
A regular feature of these Saturday night mobilizations are the small numbers of unionists from other areas who show up. A group of supporters of gay and lesbian rights in the labor movement, who were in Detroit for a conference, came this week. Workers from California, Pennsylvania, and Ohio were also on hand.
Strikers report that Vance security guards have stepped up harassment and attacks on strikers when the picket lines are small. Larry Dumochelle, a striking Pressman, ended up with 12 stitches in his head after company goons attacked the pickets in front of a distribution center November 4.
Strikers got a boost when Knight-Ridder chairman and CEO Anthony Ridder told Detroit Free Press scab reporters November 6 that the newspaper likely would not reach its pre-strike circulation levels, even with two years of rebuilding.
He also said he expects Knight-Ridder, which owns the Free Press, to lose at least $20 million in the fourth quarter due to the strike. This comes on top of a $36 million loss in the third quarter.
In face of continued working-class support for the strike across the region, the company has waged a violence- baiting campaign against the unions. Every week the company smears the Saturday night mobilizations as violent. Management also claims that pipe bombs are being aimed at newspaper facilities.
Detroit Newspapers president Frank Vega described the November 11 mass picket as "another typical night of union violence. They aren't keeping us from getting newspapers out and they sure aren't getting us any closer to a settlement."
He didn't explain why, as an IAM member who works at Detroit's Metropolitan Airport reported, the scab newspapers were delivered to the newsstands there after noon on Sunday.
John Sarge is a member of UAW Local 900.
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