BY HOLLY HARKNESS
When Ann Boyd crossed the finish line to win the women's division of the Detroit Free Press/Mazda International Mara thon, she had a "No Scab Papers" sticker on her running outfit. She was greeted by newspaper strikers and their supporters who brought their picket signs and leaflets to the October 15 race.
Boyd and other runners held a news conference the day before the race to explain why they, as strong union supporters, would run in a race sponsored by the Detroit Free Press. "I'm appalled by the way the Free Press and the News have treated their employees," said Boyd. "I think it's just plain wrong to hire replacement workers during a strike.
"Runners who wanted to support the strikers could choose to run in Chicago and boycott Detroit," she added, "We thought we would have more impact and visibility by staying here and supporting the strikers by wearing `No Scab Papers' stickers."
The same weekend saw an outpouring of support from delegates to the annual convention of the Coalition of Labor Union Women held in Dearborn, Michigan. More than a thousand delegates and guests pledged their support after hearing strike updates from local Newspaper Guild members.
Saturday afternoon four hundred CLUW members boarded buses and went to a nearby Super Kmart store to leaflet customers. Super Kmart is one of many retailers who continue to advertise in the scab papers.
"We're committed to standing with the striking newspaper workers and to provide the support they need to bring this strike to a speedy and successful conclusion," Gloria Johnson, president of CLUW, told the convention.
Linda Foley, newly elected president of the Newspaper Guild, told the delegates about the wide support the strikers have won. "Knight Ridder and Gannett have admitted $46 million in losses as a result of the strike," she said. "They've admitted a 24 percent drop in circulation and a 20 to 30 percent decline in advertising.
"The real figures are probably much worse. These media giants clearly underestimated how strongly citizens and local businesses would react to their illegal harassment of working families."
The Kmart protest was the second activity organized by a new strike support group, Women in Labor Dispute (WILD) made up of spouses of striking workers. On October 8 WILD drew more than 100 women to the Sterling Heights printing plant for picketing and a rally.
On October 13 Detroit News editor and publisher Robert Giles spoke to the Central Business District Association of Detroit. He boasted the strike, "has given us opportunities" that would not have been possible through years of negotiation.
Giles said that replacement workers have increased production at the printing plants from 45,000 papers per hour before the strike to between 60,000 and 65,000 more recently. Tony Valvona, a striking pressman, was unimpressed. "If you're pushing for production and you don't care about quality and a safe environment, you can run those presses at 70,000."
Valvona explained that the presses at the News plant in Sterling Heights are old, extremely loud and not enclosed. That made safety and proper maintenance a priority for the members of Graphic Communication Workers Local 13N.
If the company had their way, he said, " they would run the presses with ink dripping from the units and oil dripping from the folder. We were on those people all the time to fix those machines."
Valvona also pointed out that the scab edition of the News is a much simpler press setup and smaller run than the way the paper was normally printed before the strike. That makes it possible to run the presses at a higher speed. Valvona makes a point of checking the quality of the scab paper. "You can tell by the bad folds and the black smears that they're running for production only."
When the Detroit Newspapers appealed recently to the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce to take their side in the strike, the chamber chose to remain silent. This outraged Frank Vega, president and CEO of Detroit Newspapers. "I can only assume because many of its members have union shops, it is acting timidly, trying not to rock the boat," he said and threatened to pull the newspapers out of the association.
The United Way of Southeast Michigan and Oakland Community College have barred the Detroit Newspapers from using their job fairs to recruit more scabs. An Oakland Community college spokesperson cited "the violence associated with the strike" as the reason why they could not risk including the strikebreaking newspapers in their job fair. "It's a job fair for employers to recruit," Vega complained, "why unions have any say so in a job fair befuddles me."
Knight-Ridder, Inc. which owns the Detroit Free Press announced October 19 that its profits for the third quarter of 1995 were down 82 percent from last year. The company posted gains of $6.6 million compared to $37 million a year earlier. Company officials admitted that the drop was largely due to the strike.
Holly Harkness is a member of the United Autoworkers Union in Detroit.
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