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Hey, buster

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The alternative paper in Indianapolis issued a report last week that had a depressing air of familiarity. The story, penned by Nuvo writer Fran Quigley, dealt with the Indianapolis Star and its owner, the Gannett Company.

Gannett, which also owns The Detroit News, bought the Star from the Pulliam family last year, and employees at the Indiana daily have been apprehensively waiting to see what changes would occur.

Now they’re finding out.

According to the story, Gannett is proposing a new contract that includes “no pay increase, no cost of living raises and a ban on Star employees doing freelance work for any media that would broadcast material on the Web.”

When employees made a counteroffer, an attorney for Gannett immediately rejected it.

“Gannett’s tactics in these negotiations are clear — it wants to bust the union,” according to a memo from Marc Allan, president of the local newspaper guild and the Star’s television columnist.

Quigley also talked to Richard McCord, author of The Chain Gang, a riveting book that details just how loathsome a chain Gannett truly is.

“According to McCord and other national labor sources, Gannett has historically been willing to go to great lengths to prevent employees from being represented by a union, including enduring a debilitating strike in Detroit.”

And that, in the end, may be the ultimate outcome of the bitter five-year dispute between unions and Detroit’s two daily papers. So far, members of three unions representing employees at the News and Free Press have thrown up their hands and signed contracts that allow for open shops, meaning employees can enjoy the benefits of a union without paying dues or actually joining it. In short, a disaster for the unions and their members, and an undeniable victory for management. Once the other three unions sign — as seems likely — Gannett will be able to hold the contracts aloft like the severed head of a defeated enemy, sending a clear message to other potential foes of the fate that awaits them should they dare to resist.

Curt Guyette is the Metro Times news editor. Call 313-202-8004 or e-mail cguyette@metrotimes.com

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