For 15 weeks, members of Local 11 of The Newspaper Guild-CWA have been on strike against the Youngstown-based Vindicator Printing Co., which refuses to speak to them.

A minor mutiny developed in January, leading to a repeat vote on a contract proposal that was defeated two months earlier, 99-36. On Feb. 7, the union reaffirmed its stand by a count of 107-20, an indication of enhanced resistance among the 158 workers who remain part of the Youngstown Newspaper Guild.

Some anti-union vandalism took place around 5 a.m. on Feb. 12. One of the picket shacks was torn down and a plastic chair burned in a barrel. A solidarity rally convened later that day with 250 people in attendance. Imported goon guards from the International Management Assistance Corp. of Cleveland posed at the print shop gate, modeling the latest paramilitary look. Spirits rose in the sharp winter sunshine as members of the Greater Youngstown AFL-CIO Council took turns proclaiming reinforcement of the Guild.

“I’m asking for legislators in this valley to pass legislation stopping goons from coming into our valley,” said Jim Graham, president of Local 1112 of the United Auto Workers. Larry Fauver, AFL-CIO Council president, said his 15,000 members are canceling their Vindicator subscriptions. Labor is boycotting businesses that advertise in The Vindicator and supporting those who advertise in The Valley Voice, Local 11’s strike paper. The boycott applies especially to the big-page, big-ticket ads from car dealerships.

Support from the people of this valley has been great. Friendly greetings from passing motorists, plus money, firewood and food … food so warm and abundant that the strikers’ neighbors, the homeless of downtown Youngstown, ate well during the coldest weeks of the winter. Local 11 is cool. There has been no violence to date on the picket line, although a goon did threaten to shoot a good dog who was wearing a sandwich sign.

Goons and imported scabs draw regular paychecks from their home companies. Presumably, The Vindicator augments this with $20-30 an hour, about double what Guild members earned before striking. Top that with travel and hotel reimbursements, plus $75 per day for food, etc., and you have the value of that emptiness where a soul should normally reside.

Scabs come here for two weeks at a time, from as far away as Louisiana, Oregon, Massachusetts and Michigan. Most of them work for papers belonging to Advance Publications, Inc., part of the privately-owned Newhouse conglomerate. Experienced, hard-core monopoly capitalists, the Newhouse family steadily gobbled up print media throughout the 20th century so that Forbes magazine reckoned their combined worth at $15 billion as of 2003.

The Vindicator is a single local newspaper owned by a mother and her son. Yet in recent weeks, Newhouse has even sent executive scabs to Youngstown, fueling speculation of a corporate takeover. It could be that The Vindicator’s owners, Betty and Mark Brown, who claim to have lost money for the past eight years, are getting their overpriced help for little or nothing at all.

Despite all this expertise, the newspaper itself continues to deteriorate. It now consists of a few pages filled with near-poster-size photos of scenic stuff, wire copy, and badly crafted anonymous articles that gloss over matters of concern to this valley: real birdcage material. It may be that the true task of the Newhouse scabs is to depreciate the Vindicator Printing Co. while maintaining the illusion that this is the union’s doing.

As the struggle nears its fourth month, the Browns absolutely refuse to negotiate with The Newspaper Guild. According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer (one of the Advance papers), Mark Brown stays holed up in the plant. Virtually imprisoned within his windowless holdings, he sleeps on an air mattress surrounded by his “friends,” the Newhouse sharks.

— Pat McKinney, Youngstown, Ohio