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Detroit Papers to Answer Strikers This Week on Jobs

From Times Wire Services

Detroit Newspapers Inc. said it will respond this week to an offer by 2,000 striking union members to return to work.

Six unions made an offer Friday designed to help Detroit Free Press and Detroit News workers reclaim jobs they left in July 1995 in a strike about pay, work rules and other issues.

The newsroom workers union, Newspaper Guild Local 22, approved the plan by a 60% margin Sunday after a sometimes heated meeting. The guild was the only union that required rank-and-file approval. The largest union involved in the walkout is the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Still, the nation’s longest active newspaper strike seems far from over. Detroit Newspapers says many jobs no longer exist and that it can’t be forced to hire back all the strikers, who include editorial, circulation and pressroom workers. The unions expect to ask a federal court to order the rehiring.

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“It’s a priority of ours to get as many people back to work as possible and to find reasonable solutions for everyone else,” said Susie Ellwood, vice president for Detroit Newspapers, which runs the joint business operations of the News and Free Press.

Gannett Co. owns the Detroit News and Knight-Ridder Inc. owns the Free Press. The corporations are the nation’s largest newspaper companies.

The unions are continuing advertising and circulation boycotts. Some strikers plan protests at a Gannett newspaper in White Plains, N.Y., and at Gannett offices in New York City on Wednesday, union spokesman Shawn Ellis said.

Detroit Newspapers executives have refused to say how many workers would be rehired. Ellwood said 600 jobs have been cut since the strike began and that the two newspapers operate more efficiently now with 2,600 employees.

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