Detroit newspaper strike ends in ignominious defeat - Mike Hargis

Detroit newspaper strike ends in ignominious defeat - Mike Hargis

A short article by Mike Hargis announcing the end of the Detroit newspaper strike. Originally appeared in Industrial Worker #1630 (January/February 2001).

After five and a half years, the strike against Detroit's two major dailies has ended - and ended badly.

The strike by 2,500 unionists against the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News cost the papers an estimated $200 million, as circulation dropped by a third. Yet it was the unions that in the end cried uncle. Of the settlement, announced on Dec. 17, a union representative indicated that the unions didn't salvage much, "But it's better," he said, "to have a contract than no contract at all."

At 2 percent, the wage improvements are about half the current official rate of inflation. Moreover, wages have been slashed for some workers. For example, mailers (Teamsters) who once earned $16 an hour are now paid about $11 an hour. About 185 workers are waiting for openings before they can return to work; and if the companies have their way, 200 more will not be rehired at all.

The unions also agreed to an open shop, meaning that scabs hired during the strike and new employees do not have to join the union or pay agency fees for the cost of representing them as a condition of their employment.

Of course things didn't have to end this way. Early on unionists from all over Detroit turned out to the picket lines to stop delivery of scab-produced newspapers. But the unions capitulated to court injunctions and abandoned effective picketing in favor of a boycott, which failed to force the bosses to settle. Now that the battle is over the unions have agreed to help the papers to rebuild circulation in exchange for bonus money.

Originally appeared in Industrial Worker #1630 (January/February 2001)