In July of 2005, the contract for the Hearst owned San Francisco Chronicle
will expire. The following open letter is a warning to SF Chronicle workers
and all working people in the Bay Area about the new publisher Frank Vega.
(Special To labornet.org)
An Open Letter To The SF Chronicle Workers
"You Are In For The Fight Of Your Life"
Armand Nevers, Retired Detroit ITU Local 18 Journeyman Printer
A WARNING TO MY brothers and
sisters who work for the San Francisco Chronicle. Beware of Frank Vega! Beware of
the owners of the Chronicle who would hire a man like him. He is a union-buster
of the first order. There is a chance that you are in for the fight of your life.
I am a journeyman printer and a 48-year member of the International
Typographical Union, Local 18. I worked for the Detroit News for over 35
years and I participated in a five-year strike at the Detroit papers to try
and stop large ruthless, newspaper chains and their minions like Frank Vega
from breaking labor unions.
Let me tell you a little about Mr. Vega. The Gannett Corporation, whom Vega
worked for, bought the Detroit News in the mid-eightys. They started lying
right from the beginning. They would say there would be no JOA (Joint
Operating Agreement) in Detroit, but after a short time (six months or so)
they made an application, along with the Detroit Free Press (Knight-Ridder)
for a JOA which was granted after a long fight. Frank Vega was brought in as
CEO of the Detroit Newspaper Agency (DNA). He began to lay the groundwork,
along with senior Gannett and Knight-Ridder officials, for a union-busting
strike in Detroit.
There are many negative stories about our boy Frank, too many to mention all
of them here. Shortly after arriving in Detroit, Vega was involved in an
insider trading scheme to the tune of $90,000 or so. He was fined but served
no time. Shortly after he arrived here he held a meeting with all shifts to
talk to all employees. He said that his parents were union steelworkers and
that he understood all the concerns of working people. The Detroit
newspapers had been in an advertising war for several years that caused both
to suffer finanancially. the unions had gone for years with little or no
raises and gave concessions on working conditions and health insurance. Vega
assured us that if we all worked together and turned things around he would
take care of us. "We could pick his pocket" to use his words. We did turn
things around. In 1995, the first year of the strike, the Detroit newspapers
made about $55 million. All we got from Frank Vega was a five-year strike,
greatly weakened unions, lost homes and cars, broken marriages and a lot of
human suffering that lingers to this day.
Our contracts were due to expire in July of 1995. In January of that year
Frank Vega and the company said here is our proposal, which gutted
everything between the front and back pages of our contracts. They said take
it or leave it. In the meantime it was learned that the DNA, under Vega, had
been paying the Sterling Heights, Michigan police department for riot
control training before negotiations had even begun. The DNA has a large
printing plant in Sterling Heights. After the dust had settled, Vega and the
DNA paid Sterling Heights police over $1 million along with giving other
area police departments large amounts of cash to protect scabs (their new
loyal employees) and to battle long term strikers who were fighting for
About six months before negotiations began, we noticed new faces in the
building. Some were walking through the plant taking notes. It turned out
that these people were from Vance and Huffmaster security firms (goons) and
they were studing the operation and layout of the plant to prepare for the
arrival of the scabs that were to come. Scabs were brought in from all over
the country and in some cases out of the country, notably pressman from
Frank Vega likes to give the impression that he is a good ?ol boy by trying
to fraterize with the workers and act like one of them, all the while
planning their demise.
I hope this gives you an idea of what you are dealing with. Suffice to say
that it would be unwise to believe anything Frank Vega says. He is not to be
One of the most important lessons our our strike was that you have to stop
production and distribution of the paper. There has to be unity among all
the unions in the San Francisco area and indeed all of California. It is
very important to make the public aware of the issues and to gain their
support. There has to be a willingness on the part of the unions to do what
is necessary including putting out the call for a general strike to achieve
fair and equitable contracts and to stop union busting at the Chronicle. We
had huge support from many unions but we found that when push came to shove
the unions were not willing to take the steps necessary to win our strike,
such as filling the streets with people to stop distribution of the paper,
ignoring union-busting court orders and injunctions, and calling a general
strike to pressure the company to come to itıs senses. There was tremendous
unity in Detroit to do what was necessary, but it was wasted. The unions,
instead relied on an advertising boycott that was effective but not enough.
One of our mistakes in Detroit was not recognizing what we were up against.
Plans for this fight should have been made well in advance.
I donıt know the plans of the Chronicleıs owners and management, but I do
know that it would be wise for the unions to be aware of whatıs happened in
the past, namely Detroit, and to lay the ground work for what is needed to
stop union-busters like Frank Vega or as we call him in Detroit "Darth
Just as it was shown recently in Ukraine, masses of people can change
things. If Vega and company causes a strike in San Francisco, San Francisco
needs to come to a halt.
We in Detroit hope that it doesnıt come to this, but if it does and you all
stick together and do what is needed you can beat them. There are a lot more
of us that there are of them.
Detroit Typographical Union #18