Left: Protesters gather in front of Toledo Blade building; all photos by historymike
(Toledo, OH) Surrounded by dozens of Toledo Police riot squad officers, mounted patrolmen, and SWAT teams, a crowd of perhaps 1,000 people rallied outside the Toledo Blade building this afternoon to protest the paper's commitment to fair bargaining practices.
Union employees of the Toledo Blade, who are engaged in contract talks with the paper, were joined by representatives of numerous Toledo unions, including the UAW, the AFL-CIO, and the Teamsters.
Police snipers and SWAT teams sat atop the Blade building and surrounding structures in a show of force to prevent the crowd from turning violent.
Left: Officers deployed on and above Beech Street across from the Blade building
However, the mood of the crowd was more akin to that found at an outdoor rock concert, especially with the balmy 60 degree temperatures. I sang along to Elvis Costello's "Pump it Up," blasting from a PA system, as I snapped pictures in the crowd and around the perimeter of the Blade building.
"Hey, friend - it's too nice of a day for a riot," joked one protester to a uniformed officer.
Speakers at the rally repeatedly urged the crowd to remain peaceful, but there was no point at which the protesters were anything but cheerful.
Officials from a variety of local unions addressed the crowd from the back of an 18-wheeled stage.
Left: Teamsters president Bill Lichtenwald greeting friends in the crowd
"Just because Toledo is a strong union town does not mean we can't work together," said Bill Lichtenwald. "But tell me - what are we going to gain by hiring two part-time workers to replace one full-time Blade employee?"
Lichtenwald lauded the efforts of union Blade employees.
"All I ever hear the Blade employees talk about is how proud they are of this paper," he said. "These are the people who have made the Block family millions of dollars over the past 80 years."
Many of the speakers - and most of the crowd - focused their ire on the law firm of King and Ballow, hired by the Blade to negotiate with its unions. Blade writer Larry Vellequette led the crowd in a rousing version of "King and Ballow," sung to the tune of the Kingsmen's 1963 hit "Louie, Louie":
Left: The Blade's Larry Vellequette
King and Ballow
You gotta go!
Dennis Duffy, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 8, said that the represenatives of King and Bellew were "some of the most bloodthirsty negotiators" he has ever dealt with at the bargaining table.
"I have been in the business of negotiating contracts since 1980, and I have never seen the likes of these people," he said, leading the crowd in a chant of "Send them back to Tennessee!"
Left: Riot police marching up Beech Street
Interactions between protesters and the uniformed and plainclothes officers were polite and friendly. Danny Smith, director of the Toledo Port Council, reminded the crowd that the police "are union brothers and sisters with a job to do."
Given recent Glass City disturbances, one can forgive Mayor Carty Finkbeiner for erring on the side of caution.
One protester, however, questioned the expenditures.
"Will the Toledo Blade be paying all of the overtime for these four or five dozen police?" he asked me.
I suspect that the answer to that question will be "no."