Jun 26, 2002 at 12:00 am

Sometimes News Hits can’t resist stating the obvious. For example: The folks at Detroit Newspapers are big fat hypocrites. The papers pretend to bury the hatchet by plastering billboards and buses with signs saying the labor dispute between management and the 2,500 newspaper workers who went on strike nearly seven years ago is over. At the same time, the papers are taking a case regarding a former striker, back to work at the papers for nearly two years, to the highest court in the country.

Last week the papers filed an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court asking that it overturn the lower court’s ruling on the Gary Rusnell case. Rusnell, a printer with the Detroit Typographical Union, Local 18, was fired during the strike for allegedly blocking the front doors of the Detroit News building during a demonstration. Rusnell challenged the termination, citing an agreement the papers had with the union before the 1995 strike granting members of his union a job for life.

The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled in March that the printer is entitled to full back pay, benefits and his job. Rusnell has been back at work since December 2000, as a result of a previous ruling. But the papers won’t let it rest. It seems the Detroit Newspapers harbors a grudge against unionists such as Rusnell for exercising a legal right to strike and publicly protest. But they will never admit to that. They say they are exercising their legal right to an appeal, according to Tim Kelleher, Detroit Newspapers labor relations vice president.

But won’t the appeal engender ill will among unionists, Mr. Kelleher? Nope, he says. If the Supreme Court rules in the company’s favor, will they fire Rusnell? Kelleher wouldn’t say.

So much for the burying the hatchet.

Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at [email protected]