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Published: Friday, 3/17/2006

700 apply to replace mailers at The Blade

Guards scan the applicant at the head of the long line across from The Blade Building. Guards scan the applicant at the head of the long line across from The Blade Building.
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More than 700 people from the tri-state area applied to The Blade yesterday for jobs as replacement workers if there's a strike after contracts with the newspaper's eight unions expire Tuesday night.

Many applicants said they were attracted by the offer of mailers' jobs at $24 an hour, plus benefits, even if it meant a commute from Detroit or beyond. Some are unemployed, but others said they have good jobs now but are worried about the economy and want a different job.

Toledoan Judy Lee, a 51-year-old former nurse's aide who has been doing child-care work, said, "I have a medically dependent child at home. I can't survive on $200 a week. I need a job."

Jerry Froh, 47, of Flat Rock, Mich., responded because he's worried that his construction job, also paying $24 an hour, may soon disappear. "I'm trying to get out of construction, so I can work indoors," he added.

The Blade, which began advertising the replacement jobs a week ago, has placed ads in about 15 newspapers within 150 miles of Toledo, said Luann Sharp, a spokesman.

The mailers' jobs were the only ones advertised because the union is the only one to have had its members authorize its leadership to call a strike, if deemed necessary.

The paper is seeking applicants, Ms. Sharp said, for the 61 full-time jobs held by members of Mailers Local 1135, the union that represents workers who bundle the newspapers for delivery.

"The response has really exceeded our expectations," said David Warders, The Blade's director of human resources and labor relations. "There was really a large number of quality applicants."

Applications will be accepted again today from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Times Building across Orange Street from The Blade.

As many as 100 to 150 people lined up early in the morning, and one woman said she arrived at the building in the wee hours of the morning. City workers blocked off Beech and Orange streets between Superior and Huron streets to accommodate the crowd.

Mollie Rogers, a trustee for the mailers' union, was among a number of mailers who passed out flyers prepared by the Toledo Council of Newspaper Unions that called the application process "a cynical attempt by The Blade management to intimidate its current workers" by offering "nonexistent jobs."

However, Ms. Rogers said she believes "we're going to get a fair contact" in the end.

Woody Trabbic, president of the union, said 29 of the 61 full-time mailers are at the top scale of about $25 an hour, but 32 others make $15 to $18 an hour, and 84 part-time mailers start at $11.50 an hour.



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