Sep 1, 2006

Locked-Out Toledo Blade Workers Call for Boycott

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Locked-out Toledo Blade workers Left: Locked-out workers picket the Toledo Blade

(Toledo, OH) I drove past the Blade building on a trip downtown this morning and stopped to chat with some picketing workers. The newspaper has locked out members of five of its eight unions, and has engaged in a sophisticated media campaign against its employees.

The Blade has taken the unusual step of engaging the services of retired local news anchor Jeff Heitz to narrate a series of commercials attacking its own unions over the past few months. Interestingly, Blade spokesperson Luann Sharp described the decision by union leaders to call for a boycott of the paper - after being locked out - as "escalation."

Hmmm.

In the opinion of this pundit, the word "escalation" might be better used to describe the actions of a paper that locks out its workers, or which negatively targets them in an advertising campaign, but I digress.

Security officer outside of the Toledo Blade buildingLeft: Security officer with video camera monitoring activity outside of the Blade building.

Also visible this morning, though uninterested in conversation, was a uniformed security agent. In his possession was a video camera, and I am now the subject of several minutes of raw security footage.

The individual pictured videotaped my vehicle as I illegally parked on a side street and as I drove away. Some might consider this to be a subtle form of intimidation, but I prefer to think that the security man is instead putting together a YouTube production.

14 comments:

Billy Pilgrim said...

An insightful piece, Mike. When any working person loses the right to strike--or in this case, is made to feel vindictive and juvenile for doing so when clearly negotiations have failed--the democratic process grinds to a halt. The irony of this situtation on Labor Day weekend is almost too much to bear...

Mark said...

Yes, I also find it peculiar that every "escalation" in this standoff has been Blade-induced. Apparently, the Block family stole the ideas of the Bush family, and favors as many pre-emptive strikes as possible.

"But they were going to strike anyway!"

Sure. In any case, you must be a nice guy, Mike. I would have turned to the cameraman, especially if I was talking to a dude, and said, "We're not going to take our clothes off or anything, so you really don't need to film this..."

Also funny would have been a simulated "Sean Penn" experience, with the stereotypical, "Get that F*&king CAMERA OUT OF MY FACE!" Being a law student, however, I know that you could only "fake" punch the guy, so that's not as fun.

People are sad.

To the previous commenter: Lovin' the Billy Pilgrim reference! Kilgore Trout would be proud.

Anonymous said...

I'd have licked my fingers seductively and massaged my chesticles and walk slowly towards the camera, softly chanting, "Oh momma, a real life rent-a-cop, I just won the lotto! Ooooo is there tape in that?"

ToledoNative said...

Locking a union out may be legal, but to me it is unethical.

The Blade has been losing money for years.

totally off topic:
I have a new blog post up, check it out, please.

Hooda Thunkit said...

Mike,

I find this whole Blade thing to be a bit surreal myself.

Jeff Heitz robotically mouthing der blade-spiel while never once looking at the copy he is seen holding, on camera, and the block-blather emanating from visibly concerned, and sometimes “distraught” (a.k.a. spaced-out) Luann Sharp, over the Blade union’s cautiously restrained response, is classic soap opera, replete with the mandatory bad acting.

Kinda gives melodramas a bad name, doncha think?

I stand by my predictions.

historymike said...

Thanks, Billy. There IS a weird irony to timing of these happenings. The Blade will look pretty silly if it runs any material that glorifies Labor Day.

historymike said...

Mark:

Nah, I am just not intimidated by video cameras anymore. I have been taped by too many cops and "interested parties" to care any more.

One of the funniest of such interludes was when members of the National Socialist Movement thought that the media would be intimidated when they filmed us with handheld cameras at their 2005 rallies in Toledo.

historymike said...

(laughing at anonymous)

historymike said...

Agreed about lockouts, ToledoNative.

Nice post about Olbermann, too.

historymike said...

Agreed about Heitz and surreality, Hooda. The creepiest (for me) Heitz/Blade ads are the ones where he is sitting at a desk, as though he were reading the news.

The clear connotation is that Heitz is still somehow a reassuring, authoritative newscaster, and that the ad is not an attack on union workers, but "news."

I can't remember a time when a company has engaged in a PR-media campaign as overtly designed to attack its union members.

BTW - 50 cents says the Blade gets charged premium rates by BuckeyeCablevision, thus adding to the paper's "losses."

liberal_dem said...

Every float, car, truck, or bus in the parade today sported a "Boycott the Blade" poster.

Citizen John said...

i sent an email to Joseph Zerbey inquiring about his salary and his managers (asking if they were in that $33K range or closer to the $65K salary range). I must've touched a nerve as he wrote back:

"Quite frankly that is none of your business. Managers run the place. They average higher wages. They are employees at will and can be fired. They have no contract protection. They are paid more to lead. This is America, not some collective farm in the old Soviet Union. So keep your curiosity to yourself pal and worry about something important like Iraq or your taxes!"

Apparently the lack of a contract is what garners a higher wage.

Apparently Labor Day has its roots in Soviet collective farms.

Apparently Blade managers lead (lead by example, I guess, as many are now doing the work of locked out employees).

A cynic might suggest they should lead with a drum beat (ala Ben Hur---Battering ram power!)

Since the paper is hurting financially, I'm hoping the top brass are taking a hit in their perks (and stepping up their output ...you know, better memos & better punctuated emails)

I'll now move on to worrying about Iraq and my taxes.

jen said...

The thing that annoys me most is the idea that since The Blade is losing money, the contract employees should take the financial hit.

If the paper is losing money, maybe it's those managers that "run the place" that are screwing up and should give up their salary.

Anonymous said...

I knew Jeff Heitz from almost the day he started as a street reporter for Channel 11, doing what I did and “on-screen”, I got to know him for 30 years of news stories and his journalistic integrity and ability.
All gone now… a “whore” for the Toledo Blade…how sad.
Has lost all he spent a career building for a few measly bucks from the Toledo Blade.
I am not “pro-union”, by any stretch of the imagination, but Heitz has lost even the semblence of a journalist…. a “shill”, a “propogandist”, “mouth piece”, could add more, but let you decide.
But give me a break…if the Block twins don’t make a profit (yeah, like they don’t), Toledo is doomed.
The Toledo Blade has tried to control northwest Ohio since the days of Paul Block, virtually unfettered…what goes around, comes around, and everytime you see a Jeff Heitz Blade infomercial on the cable monopoly they own, (what, 48 times a day?) hope you believe that the best thing that could happen is if the “If it’s news today, it’s news to us” Blade goes under and a real newspaper company, takes over, Toledo will be much better for it.