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Detroit newspaper workers picket for "fair contract," but no strike plans

Mar 30, 2016

Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Employees at Detroit’s two major newspapers are working without a contract.

Detroit News and Free Press staffers held an “informational picket” near the papers’ downtown headquarters Wednesday.

The Newspaper Guild of Detroit is trying to negotiate a new contract with Gannett Media Company on behalf of both News and Free Press employees.

Free Press reporter and Guild President John Gallagher says workers at both papers took steep pay cuts during the Great Recession, and the newsrooms have lost staff since then.

“And so now that the companies are back and making a lot of money, we think it’s time for them to honor their workers, and restore some of those cuts,” said Gallagher.

He notes that Gannett has paid “tens of millions of dollars on acquisitions around the country, and they’re paying their executives millions of dollars in pay and bonuses” recently, though the profitability of the Detroit newspaper operations remains unclear.

But Gallagher says more is at stake during these negotiations, where “everything is on the table.”

“We also want to protect basic union rights, about seniority and firing only for just cause, and all those kinds of basic union protections,” he said.

Contracts for workers in both newsrooms expired March 21, and Gannett declined to extend them as bargaining continued.

This is the second time that’s happened since the massive Detroit newspapers strike of the mid-1990s. Union representatives say there are no strike plans of any kind at this point.

Gallagher said four meetings so far have been unproductive. The two sides expect to return to the bargaining table Thursday.