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DETROIT FREE PRESS AND NEWS EMPLOYEES AT RISK OF SERIOUS INJURIES, ACCORDING TO THE NEWSPAPER GUILD OF DETROIT

 DETROIT, Nov. 20 ~PRNewswire~ -- The following was released today by The Newspaper Guild of Detroit, Local 22:
 The Detroit News and Detroit Free Press are putting their employees at risk of potentially career-ending injuries by failing to fix dangerous working conditions, The Newspaper Guild of Detroit, Local 22 (AFL-CIO, CLC) charged today.
 In separate complaints, the Guild said both papers violated the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Act. The state can inspect the papers and require the publishers to develop a program for solving the safety problems.
 The papers' failure to provide employees with fully adjustable workstations, training and adequate work breaks has led to a rash of potentially debilitating repetitive strain injuries (RSI), the union said.
 In spite of promises by Free Press Executive Editor Heath Meriwether, the Free Press this year completely remodeled its third- floor newsroom and ignored generally available measures for combating RSI. The News has made virtually no efforts to improve its working conditions.
 Repeated typing on video display terminals (VDTs) can cause RSI, a growing scourge in the computerized workplace.
 The injuries include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis and a variety of painful hand, wrist, arm, neck and shoulder afflictions. RSI accounted for almost 60 percent of the nation's workplace injuries two years ago and has reached epidemic proportions in the newspaper industry. RSI has permanently disabled a growing number of reporters and editors.
 A recent Guild survey at the News found 74 percent of the paper's employees with at least one RSI symptom. Twenty percent of those surveyed said a doctor had diagnosed their condition as RSI. More than half of the Free Press employees responding to a 1990 Guild survey reported RSI symptoms. Twenty percent had sought medical treatment. Several employees at both papers have undergone surgery to try to relieve these ailments.
 News Western Wayne Bureau reporter Barbara McClellan said her work- related injuries -- tendinitis and a debilitating shoulder ailment -- cause her constant pain and have forced her to limit her work hours.
 The pain does not disappear when she leaves the paper's Dearborn office.
 "I can't paddle a canoe or push a grocery cart or open a package without further injury and pain," McClellan said.
 Detroit Guild administrative officer, Donald C. Kummer, said: "It's time for this monopoly newspaper franchise to address the responsibility of providing a safe and healthy work environment. They know the severity of the problem. They know what should be done to reduce the risks. Yet, they choose to pay workers' compensation or accident insurance payments while introducing a whole generation of employees to the permanency of this crippling malady."
 Kummer went on to say that the papers should "practice what they preach."
 In July 1990, the Free Press published "Workers at Risk," an award- winning series detailing workplace safety hazards at various Michigan businesses.
 The Guild filed the safety and health complaints after several years of trying unsuccessfully to persuade News and Free Press managers to work together with the union to create healthier work environments.
 The papers have also apparently ignored the advice of their own trade association, the Newspaper Association of America.
 On July 12, 1991, association President Cathleen Black cited "restrictive or improperly adjusted workstations" as an RSI risk factor.
 Authorities say easily adjustable chairs and desks reduce RSI because they move to adapt to an individual's body. Non-adjustable chairs and desks with static surfaces force employees to awkwardly contort or strain their bodies to fit the furniture.
 Poor furniture has forced employees to improvise in order to make their workstations more comfortable.
 Newspaper Guild International President Charles Dale criticized Free Press owner Knight-Ridder Inc. (NYSE: KRI) and News owner Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI) for their apparent lack of concern for their employees' well-being.
 "It's a damn shame the nation's two largest newspaper chains are unwilling to provide their workers with safe workplaces," Dale said.
 Repetitive strain injuries have cut a wide swath through the nation's newspapers.
 The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health found 395 RSI cases among 973 surveyed Los Angeles Times workers. At Newsday in New York, 192 of 812 editorial workers had filed for RSI-related workers' compensation claims as of last year.
 At the same time, many papers are beginning to buy workstations designed to alleviate RSI.
 -0- 11~20~92
 ~NOTE: For more information and copies of the Guild's complaints,
CONTACT: Luther Jackson, union assistant administrative officer, The


Newspaper Guild of Detroit, Local 22, 313-963-4254~
 (KRI GCI)


CO: The Newspaper Guild of Detroit, Local 22; The Detroit News;
 Detroit Free Press; Knight-Ridder Inc.; Gannett Co. Inc. ST: Michigan IN: PUB HEA SU:


SM -- DE005 -- 3275 11~20~92 10:05 EST
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Date:Nov 20, 1992
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