Endgame in Detroit

Endgame in Detroit

Gonyea, Don

Why are these Detroit newspaper strikers and their supporters smiling? Because for the first time since the walkout began in the summer of 1995, they got some good news. In late June, administrative law Judge Thomas Wilks of the National Labor Relations Board found Gannett’s Detroit News and KnightRidder’s Detroit Free Press guilty of “unfair labor practices,” as charged by the NLRB’s regional director in Detroit. If upheld, the ruling means that the strikers will get their jobs back as well as back pay dating to February 14, when the six unions involved offered to return to work (see “Fallout From Detroit,” CJR, May/June).

The papers, which contend they bargained fairly, promise to appeal the decision – first to the full NLRB, then, if necessary, to the federal courts. All that could take years. The NLRB also asked a federal judge to issue a so-called a 10(j) injunction, meant to get workers back on the job immediately while the lengthy appeals play out. The unions lost that round. On August 14 the judge rejected the 10(j) request. The NLRB may appeal.

Caught in the middle are more than 1,000 replacement workers who had been told they have permanent jobs. To protect their interests, the replacements hired attorney Leonard Givens, who argues on their behalf. “They have worked every day. They have crossed lines. They have been harassed. They have been abused. . . They put up with all this and now they think they should have a right to keep those jobs.”

Final word on just who gets those jobs may still be years away.

Copyright Columbia University, Graduate School of Journalism Sep/Oct 1997

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