Magazine article American Journalism Review

Peace at Last?

Magazine article American Journalism Review

Peace at Last?

Article excerpt

After more than five years, Detroit sees a break in the battle.

Members of the city's Newspaper Guild overwhelmingly approved new contracts at the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press last month. But at AJR's press time, an end to the long and bitter dispute still hinged on two Teamsters locals that had yet to agree to vote on a contract. The guild includes newsroom and maintenance employees.

"I think it's significant, in the longest labor dispute in the newspaper industry, over five years, that these unions in Detroit have been successful in obtaining new agreements," says Lou Mleczko, president of the Newspaper Guild's Local 22.

The dispute began with an employee walkout in July 1995. Some employees crossed the picket line, and others returned after the strike legally ended in February 1997. But they've been working without a contract since, and some have not been called back to their former jobs.

Free Press Publisher Heath Meriwether says he's encouraged by the contracts and thinks that "the vote itself can be an important part of the healing process for the Free Press and the community," a labor stronghold that supported a circulation and advertising boycott mounted by the unions.

But he can't do much to rebuild the paper's deeply dented circulation until the Teamsters approve a contract, Meriwether says. The two papers, partners in a joint operating agreement, lost 292,440 in combined daily circulation between 1994 and 2000, based on figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The Free Press, circulation 365,579, is owned by Knight Ridder, and the News, circulation 237,518, by Gannett Co. Detroit News Publisher and Editor Mark Silverman could not be reached.

A spokesman for all unions involved says firm proposals are still being worked out for the two Teamsters locals. …

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