Familiar Refrain -- Newspapers vs Technology

Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.

January 3, 1963, Vol. VIII, No. 11

The Newspaper Strike: A Union Man Replies

By Art Berger

It is very rare for labor and strikes to get a fair deal in the press, which, like the other media, is always eager to give management's slant on the union scene. Now The Voice is giving a union the same treatment, although it has been a pioneer for fair play for other groups. On the front page of the December 27 issue, under the guise of "News Background," an editorializing story on the newspaper strike was sneaked in that would have looked proper under the masthead of Editor and Publisher rather than The Village Voice.

Greenwich Village is in the heart of an area containing much of the country's printing industry. Lafayette, Hudson, and Varick Streets are modern versions of "printers' row"; Chelsea is loaded with typographers; Fairchild Publications is in the heart of the community; and the home of New York Typographical Union No. 6 is on the corner of 14th and Sixth. Thousands of Villagers earn their keep somewhere in publishing and printing. They are entitled to a look at the facts about the newspaper printers' strike -- and lockout. It is disappointing to many that The Voice should present such a distorted view of the situation.

The reference to the printers' action as a "big gamble by New York's International Typographical Union (that) did not pay off" is smug and capricious. This strike by No. 6 against the Publishers Association is the first and only strike in 65 years. The publishers were warned repeatedly that the union would not let negotiations drag on for months after the expiration of the contract, as had been the case in previous years, resulting in gradual attrition of the workers' standards to levels below that of craftsmen in many other trades...

The union's decision to strike only four of the nine dailies offered a safeguard to those "weaker" papers which had claimed that they might have to go out of business in the event of a long strike. However, these papers chose to shut down and join forces with the giants of the industry rather than continue publishing....

The implication in the Voice article that "automation" is the underlying cause of the strike is misleading. Automation has not as yet affected the New York printing industry massively and is not the basis of this particular strike. The I.T.U. has been taking the lead in retraining its members for new processes.

The galloping state of our technology affects everyone and is not the private property of any one group. It is the ghost that sits at every bargaining table. It has completely upset the coal miners' way of life; it has shut out hundreds of thousands of workers from ever returning to auto or steel; it haunts the Railroad Brotherhoods and has precipitated the shutdown of our waterfront. If this magic word is to benefit all of the people and not make a thalidomide baby of our society, the solutions will have to be found a top planning levels of the nation and not at any one particular bargaining table.

The frenzied community commercialization that The Voice speaks out against is another face of the same evil that finds human beings expendable on the industrial scene.

Free collective bargaining for better working conditions and job security by an aroused membership of a virile labor movement can help restore sanity in a nuclear age. It can also be a safeguard to keep us from the fate of the brontosaurus that grew too big to survive.

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]

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