The Michigan Daily - Thursday, November 16, 1995 - 7
DETROIT NEWSPAPER STRIKE ENTERS
CEO says he sees no
end to newspaper strike
files federal lawsuit
DETROIT (AP) -- With the Detroit
newspaper strike into its fifth month,
the chief executive and president of
Detroit Newspapers spoke to The Asso-
ciated Press on Friday about the strike
and where he thinks it is headed.
Frank Vega heads the agency that
produces and distributes The Detroit
News and the Detroit Free Press and
handles their advertising under ajoint-
operating agreement. As president and
CEO, he is one ofthe chiefarchitects of
the newspapers' strike strategy.
Q: How would you describe the cur-
rent status of negotiations?
A: Totally stalled. We've seen no
movement at all after 47 meetings with
the unions to try to resolve the issues that
caused this strike. They're still standing
on 99 percent of the points that initially
caused the strike. We couldn't agree to
those things on July 13. We're certainly
not going to agree to them now.
Q: The unions made a conditional
back-to-work proposal last month and
management later rejected it without a
A: That lastproposal wasnot aproposal.
Getting back to old contract language is
what we're trying to get away from. The
featherbedding associated with that con-
tract is what we could not work with.
Q: Are you saying there is no sce-
nario under which the company would
take its striking workers back?
A: The issue is now moot. We're not
going to bring back all the people. We
don't need them all.
Q: You said in Friday's Free Press
that you see no end in sight to this strike.
A: There's no end insight because the
negotiations are not going forward. The
unions have put themselves in a very bad
position. We know we can do the work
with 700 fewer people. Although we
have endured some losses, we will even-
tually get things back to normal.
They went out of here with nothing to
gain. They had the best wages, the best
benefits, the best work rules in the country.
I'll neverunderstand what compelledthem
to go on strike. They had control of this
operation for many, many, many years.
Q: With circulation, ad lineage and
DETROIT (AP) - The company
that runs the business operations of the
Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News
filed a federal lawsuit yesterday alleg-
ing racketeering violations by the six
unions striking the newspapers.
Detroit Newspapers' lawsuit claims
the unions repeatedly have used vio-
lence as they try to stymie production
and distribution of newspapers during
the 5-month-old strike.
"This picketing quickly became and
has continued to be violent, disorderly,
disruptive and destructive and has been
marked by an ongoing pattern of extor-
tion, robbery, arson and interference
with commerce," the lawsuit says.
"Furthermore, the newspaper unions
commenced and have continued a cam-
paign to threaten, intimidate and harass
carriers and others doing business with
the DNA (Detroit Newspapers) and have
engaged in an ongoing pattern of acts of
extortion, robbery, arson and interfer-
ence with commerce in furtherance of
The action is a counter-suit to one
- filed by the unions on Oct. 2. The union
lawsuit alleges that Detroit Newspa-
pers, which prints and distributes the
two newspapers under a joint-operat-
ing agreement, conspired to deprive
strikers of their civil rights.
Sam McKnight, the attorney repre-
senting the Metropolitan Council of
Newspaper Unions, was on vacation
and had not seen the lawsuit, his office
Roger Kerson, a spokesman fqr the
council, said the unions would have no
comment because they had not -fully
reviewed the lawsuit..1
The Racketeer Influenced andor-
rupt Organizations Act, or RICO,'was
enacted in 1970 primarily to combat
organized crime. In recent years, it has
increasingly been used in lawsuits in-
volving business disputes of-all leinds.
If successful, Detroit Newspapers
could recover three times the losses the
newspapers have sustained as a result
of the strike. However, lawsuits under
the RICO statute are rarely successful
in civil cases.
Distribution centers owned by Detroit Newspapers have had numerous incidents of
vandalism since the strike began in July.
profits down, what's the financial out-
look for both newspapers?
A: We're going to lose less money in
the fourth quarter than we did in the
third. Advertisers are coming back be-
cause they have to sell their products.
The unions expect everyone in the mar-
ketplace to quit advertising to meet
their demands. It's very unrealistic and
the public's getting fed up with it.
Q: Union leaders say they have not
condoned any violence.
A: They have strategy sessions every
Saturday night where people gather at a
union hall. Then they leave and go to a
distribution centerand block people from
coming and going and break windshields.
If that's not condoning violence when
they have a strategy session to go do
that, I don't know what is.
Union leader says Thanksgiving Day
picketing planned, predicts further losses
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DETROIT (AP) - One of the key
union leaders in the strike against The
DetroitNews and the Detroit Free Press
spoke to The Associated Press on Fri-
day and Tuesday about where the strike
Lou Mleczko is presidentof The News-
paper Guild ofDetroit, Local22, which
represents 520 newsroom and mainte-
nance employees of The Detroit News
and the Detroit Free Press.
Q: How would you describe the cur-
rent status of negotiations?
A: No progress. There's been bar-
gaining going on, but nothing that we
could say has any substance to it. The
company has dug in its heels and, as far
as we're concerned, has been totally
We think we've tried to alter our
positions. We gave them some new
conditions to try to settle this strike and
they rejected those, but they have not
come back with any counterproposals.
We're willing to sit down with them
round-the-clock and reach settlements.
Q: Detroit Newspapers chief Frank
Vega said Friday that he sees no end in
sight to the strike. Your reaction?
A: It sounds like Mr. Vega wants to
lose a hell of a lot more money for
Knight-Ridder and Gannett (owners of
the Free Press and News). Ifthey thought
the losses were staggering for the third
quarter, they haven't seen anything yet.
I don't know how far his vision is, if
it's just to next week, next month or
beyond. I guess they're not ready to
engage in meaningful contract talks.
That's how I read it. If that's the case,
his newspaper franchise is going to
continue to be chopped up.
Q: What are the unions planning to
do to end the stalemate?
A: We're pushing ahead with our
N they thought
the losses were
staggering for the
third quarter, they
- Lou Mleczko
President of The Newspaper
Guild of Detroit, Local 22
advertising boycott. The day after
Thanksgiving, we're shooting for 3,000
to 5,000 people doing leafletting at the
major shopping centers, targeting the
advertisers who are in the struck pa-
That and the circulation efforts to
convince more people not to subscribe.
The strikers' paper will be a third prong
in that attack.
Q: And the strategy of picketing se-
lected distribution centers?
A: We're going to intensify it.
Q: We understand the unions also are
planning a major effort to delay distri-
bution of the newspapers on Thanks-
giving and the day after, to make those
advertising-heavy editions less effec-
A: That's part of our plan for that
weekend, no question about it.
The whole idea is to send Mr. Vega a
message: that he is pursuing a disas-
trous strategy. It's going to be a losing
proposition to him to keep ignoring
these six unions and trying to break us.
Q: What are you telling advertisers
about those editions?
A: Very few people are going to see
them. No matter what discounts they're
getting, it's not going to be worth the
Q: Some are saying the unions' only
hope to win this strike is to get a favor-
able ruling from the National labor
Relations Board and courts on your
unfair labor practice complaint, a pro-
cess that could take a year or more. Do
A: We're not hanging our hat on that.
That's not going to settlethis strike. It's
going to be settled at the bargaining
table, not before an NLRB judge or in
If it means inflicting millions more in
losses on Detroit Newspapers, so-be it.
But we have to get them back at the
bargaining table to reach new agree-
ments. That's what's going to end the
Q: Though the strike has hurt Detroit
Newspapers and its parent companies,
both seem willing to absorb the losses
in hope of long-term gain from lower
operating expenses. Do the unions have
any realistic hope of overcoming two
big corporate owners with such deep
A: If they want to have a newspaper
business in southeastern Michigan,
they're going to have to reach contract
settlements. I can't believe the execu-
tives of Gannett and Knight-Ridder are
so stupid that they would throw away a
print monopoly that they have guaran-
teed for 90-some years for a short-term
strategy to bust six unions and gain
some short-term profits.
If I was one of the stockholders, I'd
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about what the hell they're attempting
to accomplish here in Detroit: Their
earnings have already been impacted,
and it's only going to get worse.
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