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Thousands rally to support newspaper unions

June 22, 1997

DETROIT (AP) _ Thousands of former Detroit newspaper workers and their supporters marched Saturday, a day after an administrative law judge ruled in favor of unions that went on strike for 19 months.

``This is a statement of continued solidarity and commitment by the working men and women in this country,″ said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney at the start of the march outside Tiger Stadium.

Some marchers shook their fists and made obscene gestures at employees watching from The Detroit News building. Others yelled ``Jump!″

A few windows of the newspaper building were broken with chunks of asphalt, and a chain-link construction fence near the building was torn down, Detroit Newspapers spokeswoman Susie Ellwood said. Several newspaper racks were also damaged along the route, she said.

Judge Thomas Wilks ruled Friday that the strike, which ended in February, was caused by unfair labor practices. He ruled that the Free Press, The Detroit News and Detroit Newspapers Inc., which runs the papers’ business and production operations under a joint operating agreement, must take back as many as 1,100 workers even if it means displacing replacement workers.

Newspaper officials said they would appeal, which could take years.

``We need the community to remember that our struggle is not over and that we still need to have our jobs back, and most importantly we need contracts,″ said Dia Pearce, an editorial assistant who went on strike at the News.

Crowd estimates of the rally ranged from 25,000 to 60,000 or higher, but police later refused to give estimates because of the variation.

Six union locals representing about 2,500 workers have been on strike since July 1995.

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