A short article by Larry Skwarczynski about the end of Detroit newspaper strike. Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker #1630 (January/February 2001).
Detroit was once another name for solidarity - unionism - unity - standing up for working people's dignity. No more!
Whether it is fighting for a living wage for unjustly fired and locked-out workers, for diverse union membership, for education and health care, for community needs and for respect, union leaders have the responsibility to their members and their community to foster justice. Instead, they have decided their interests are the same as the companies', betraying workers' struggles as they get all they can for themselves and fight to stay in control.
After five-and-a-half years on the street, the Teamsters union - the last to hold out - surrendered totally rather than face Gannett's racketeering lawsuit, the ongoing drain on strike funds, and the difficulties of prolonged struggle. Gannett told the unions it would never take the fired workers back, and demanded a vote before Christmas.
The contract had nothing for the fired or locked-out workers, nor did it offer back wages or seniority. It took away $5 an hour for all mailers, while giving one percent pay hikes and the chance to grovel for merit pay to others. There's no sick leave, and scabs can not be bumped from their positions. TheDetroit newspapers will be scabby, open shop sweatshops.
Many workers were outraged and walked away as the Executive Board said it was the worst contract they had ever seen but told us to ratify it anyway. The vote in the 1,138-member Teamsters Local 372 was 139-46, in the 255-member Teamsters #2040 it was 36-33. The other unions - the Newspaper Guild, Printers, Pressmen and Engravers - broke rank months ago, settling for equally bad contracts.
During the strike/lock-out, some religious leaders and politicians rallied constantly against the newspapers' union-busting, but now who speaks when union sister and brother turn their backs on the fired and locked-out left without? At the end of January their benefits will be cut off and workers with years of seniority will be left scrambling for whatever jobs they can find.
Gannett pulled its RICO suit off the table in exchange for the unions promising to tell all that the strike is over and everyone who canceled their subscriptions in solidarity with the workers to restart. I, as a most active participant, see no honor, no dignity and no justice - only corruption, deceit and treachery.
Originally appeared in the Industrial Worker #1630 (January/February 2001)