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Justice slowly served

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It would be easy to call Gary Rusnell a quixotic fool. After all, the former striker fought a legal battle with the Detroit Newspapers for seven years, never giving up hope that some day justice would prevail.

That day has at long last come.

In 1995, Rusnell and 2,500 other union members struck the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press and Detroit Newspapers Inc., the entity that oversees business operations for both dailies. Early in the strike Rusnell, a printer with Detroit Typographical Union Local 18, was fired for allegedly committing the illegal act of blocking a Detroit News doorway.

Even after the strike and subsequent lockout finally ended, the company refused to bring Rusnell back. Because his union had a lifetime job guarantee agreement with the papers, Rusnell filed a grievance seeking his return to work. The courts upheld the agreement and ordered Rusnell’s return to work in December 2000.

Despite claims from management that they wanted to heal the bone-deep animosity caused by the bitter and costly labor dispute, Detroit Newspapers relentlessly fought that decision, taking its battle with Rusnell all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So much for applying a healing salve to old wounds.

The end came last week, when the high court refused to hear the case. Rusnell is entitled to about $160,000 in back pay and benefits.

“That covers the three-and-half years I was out,” says Rusnell, who plans to use the money to help pay for his kids’ college education and his retirement. “It also means justice was finally served. We know it was slow, but it was served.”

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