During the historic Detroit newspaper strike that began on July 13, 1995, hundreds of strikers and supporters were arrested on various criminal charges during demonstrations, picket lines, and other protests during the strike. The Detroit and Michigan Chapter of the NLG took on the responsibility of organizing dozens of local attorneys to provide pro bono representation for many of the arrested strikers, and for the vast majority of their supporters. Our NLG chapter was glad to play this essential role in supporting the newspaper strikers, and we are proud to have been able to provide, in most cases, successful legal defense for arrestees.
The strike was an historic event in the U.S. labor movement. What we call the “one percent” accelerated its assault on the rights of working people during the Reagan administration, with the decision to fire all PATCO union members and bring in “replacement workers” (i.e. “scabs”). This continued in the early 1990s with numerous other strikes, including the UAW strike against Caterpillar in Illinois. In 1995, the corporate power structure decided to back Gannett and Knight-Ridder in a strong effort to break the Detroit newspaper workers’ unions. They believed if they could break the unions in a labor center such as Detroit, they would demonstrate the power to break unions anywhere in the country. The valiant Detroit newspaper workers took up this challenge, and fought mightily defending their right to organize and bargain collectively. Ultimately, the Detroit newspaper unions survived; the power structure’s effort to destroy them failed.
This struggle to defend the right to organize has continued across the country since the Detroit newspaper strike ended. The Chapter considers the strike to have been an historic victory for working people all over the U. S. On the 20th Anniversary of the beginning of this historic strike, we salute the newspaper strikers of Detroit in their struggle; and we remain proud of the contribution our organization made in support of their fight.
This piece was adapted from a statement released by the NLG Michigan and Detroit Chapter on July 15, 2015.