Winter (strike) break

Ed Petykiewicz was being coy.

We’d heard that the editor of The Ann Arbor News, owned by the Newhouse chain, was among a group of employees who’d temporarily relocated to Youngstown, Ohio, to serve as scabs at The Vindicator, an independent daily rag where 170 workers have been on strike since Nov. 16.

Union members in the editorial, classified and circulation departments walked out over issues ranging from pay increases and overtime rates to increasing health care costs, according to Deb Shaulis Flora, vice president of the Youngstown Newspaper Guild.

Word is, says Shaulis Flora, the replacements have been parachuting in from around the country for two-week stints. To learn if Petykiewicz was one of them, we first called his office in Ann Arbor, where a helpful secretary said he’d be out … for about two weeks. We then called down to The Vindicator and promptly got hold of Ed.

Asked if he was working at the paper, he declined to comment. He wouldn’t even confirm that he was in Ohio. Sharp newspaperman that he is, Petykiewicz apparently failed to grasp that we had just dialed the number to The Vindicator’s newsroom. That fact alone should have helped him realize that any attempts at evasiveness would seem a little, uh, what’s the exact adjective were looking for here?

Lame? No. Stupid? No, that doesn’t quite capture it either. Wait, let us check the thesaurus. Oh, here’s the word: imbecilic.

It has been reported elsewhere that scab workers are earning their regular salaries, plus a “sweetener,” per diem expenses and mileage.

Vindicator general manager Mark Brown, whose family has owned the paper since 1889, confirmed this. Brown says about four or five newspapers have sent in workers, but wouldn’t identify specific papers.

Shaulis Flora says the scabs are coming from other Newhouse papers as well. So why would that particular chain be willing to help out a small, family-owned operation like The Vindicator?

“It’s an excellent question. It’s something everyone except the principals can speculate on,” Shaulis Flora says. Those principals have gone on record denying any ulterior motives. Shaulis Flora, however, notes that the Cleveland Plain Dealer, a Newhouse-owned paper, is about 80 miles from Youngstown, and that maybe it has an eye on acquiring the paper. Even so, she says, there’s no reason to believe that The Vindicator’s owners are looking to sell. Still, the chain’s help is inspiring dark musings. “In the past, the paper has been viewed as a family legacy,” Shaulis Flora says. “Does the legacy end here?”

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