Via Workers World News Service
Reprinted from the Sept. 4, 1997
issue of Workers World newspaper
How about a daily labor paper in Detroit?
By Jerry Goldberg in Detroit
In the wake of a judge's Aug. 14 refusal to order Detroit newspaper bosses to take back some 2,000 locked-out workers, the unions representing the workers are making plans for continuing the legal effort to win their jobs back. Rank- and-file workers and supporters are discussing ways to keep building solidarity.
Employees of the Detroit News and Detroit Free Press walked out on strike in July 1995. The unions officially ended the strike and offered to return to work in February of this year. Since then, the bosses have reinstated only 10 percent of the strikers, most at much less than their former pay.
With the newspaper workers' struggle now in its third year, here is an idea worth considering: Make the Detroit Sunday Journal, the weekly newspaper put out by the locked- out workers, into a daily.
Right now, the major newspapers in Detroit, which really serve all of Michigan, are openly and virulently anti-union. On a daily basis the News and Free Press are written by scabs and put out by union busters.
Hundreds of thousands of union members boycott these scab dailies every day. But the fact is, they are still being read by hundreds of thousands of workers every day. And unfortunately, this could remain the case for several more years while the Unfair Labor Practice cases against Detroit Newspapers, which jointly operates the News and Free Press, drag through the courts.
At a time when organized labor is moving to the offensive- -as witnessed by the UPS strike and many UAW local strikes for jobs at General Motors--can the labor movement in a union center like Detroit tolerate having union bust ers and scabs monopolize news reporting on these very labor struggles?
Instead, isn't it time for labor to launch its own daily newspaper?
The locked-out workers and their supporters have shown the potential through the success of the Detroit Sunday Journal. It is the second-biggest Sunday newspaper in circulation in Michigan.
The idea of making the Journal a daily was posed as a question at a union news conference announcing the judge's refusal to issue the injunction. Someone who helps organize operations at the Sunday Journal said this would take about $10 million.
If the 350,000 union members in the Detroit area each paid even $20 for a subscription, that alone would raise $7 million.
There are at least a hundred union locals in Michigan. Many, especially UAW locals, have big memberships and million-dollar treasuries. Certainly, each local could contribute a sustaining pledge to help make a labor daily a reality.
Even before they became scab newspapers, there was tremendous disaffection with the News and Free Press in the African American, Latino and Arab communities. If the labor movement reached out to the oppressed communities, its daily newspaper would elicit tremendous support there as well.
It is all a question of political consciousness and will. The tremendous public support for the UPS strike demonstrated great potential for dynamic new growth in the labor movement. For labor to really meet this potential will require breaking away and becoming politically independent of the capitalist class, its parties and politicians--and its organs of propaganda.
An important step in achieving this independence would be to create an independent daily labor press.
Whatever strategy and tactics are adopted, one thing is clear. The spirit and determination of the rank-and-file strikers and their supporters, which has sustained this struggle for over two years, has not been exhausted. Valuable lessons have been learned, which will only prepare these workers for the many labor battles to come.
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