July 13 Striking News in Detroit

July 13, 2017

On this day in labor history, the year was 1995.

That was the day 2500 pressmen, reporters, drivers and clerks went on strike against the Detroit News and the Free Press.

Both newspapers had created a virtual monopoly in 1988 by merging their advertising and circulation departments into the Detroit Newspaper Association.

Even as the DNA raked in record profits, they forced years of concessions, including wage freezes and lay offs.

When the Association implemented a merit raise system, the Newspaper Guild voted to strike.

Five other unions, including CWA and Teamsters soon followed.

The newspapers were ready. Just before the strike, they cut off the dues check-off.

They also contracted with the company, Alternative Work Force, to provide scabs.

And they hired private security guards from Huffmaster and Vance International to enforce the scab herding.

A solid union boycott cut revenues for both newspapers.

On August 19, hundreds of strikers stopped scabbing until police attacked the picket lines, breaking arms and arresting at least four.

Then, on Labor Day weekend, thousands of strikers and supporters successfully repulsed police forces amassed from across the state to break up picket lines.

By mid-September, both newspapers were forced to airlift the Sunday edition until strikebreaking injunctions limited pickets.

Over a hundred had been arrested over the course of several weeks.

Unable to stop production, strikers gradually returned to work until the strike was finally called off in February 1997.

In his two volume set, Workers in America, Robert Weir notes that many labor activists criticized strike tactics.

They argued direct action to stop production should have been the priority rather than boycotts and political pressure.

Once the strike ended, the DNA claimed all but a few had forfeited their jobs.

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