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PRINTS CHARMING

But the GCIU's Greene says it soon became clear to him that Barry Hirschfeld had no such plans. As evidence, he points to a series of help-wanted advertisements published in Midwestern newspapers that ran as early as August 1993. The fact that Hirschfeld was seeking replacement workers only a month after the two sides had agreed on the indefinite contract extension leads Greene to conclude that "there was never any intent on his part to reach an agreement."

Meanwhile, Hirschfeld had made an offer to the GCIU. It included a raise in the company's contribution to the workers' health and benefits. But it also asked for another wage freeze, this time for three more years. If the union had accepted, Greene points out, it would have made seven years without a pay raise. "In my mind," he says, "he was trying to force us to strike so he could replace us."

On March 23, the union gave the required seven-day notice that it was severing the contract extension agreed on the previous summer. On March 30, the day the contract expired, Hirschfeld yanked the union security clause from consideration in any future negotiations. The clause, which required the printing shop to be all union, was the foundation of the GCIU's presence at A.B. Hirschfeld Press.

"I interpreted that as forcing a strike," says Greene. "It told me that he was going to destroy the union."

Hirschfeld acknowledges that the move could be read as taking advantage of the opportunity to give the GCIU the boot. But he shrugs and explains, "If I'd wanted to bust out the union, I'd have done it years ago. I have always spent my energies trying to get along with them. I have been a good friend of the unions. But hey, this is the Nineties, not the Thirties. Choice is very important."

On Friday, April 29, approximately 100 A.B. Hirschfeld Press production workers represented by the GCIU struck. Barry says he was up and running with fill-in workers the following day. They have since become designated as permanent replacements. The GCIU's picket lines notwithstanding, the strike for all practical purposes has been broken, and for the first time in three generations, A.B. Hirschfeld Press is a nonunion shop.

Since then, the strike--and Hirschfeld's decision to permanently replace the union workers--seems to have pleased no one. The GCIU's pressmen, many of whom have been at the company for two or three decades, are at home or looking for other work.

Hirschfeld, meanwhile, has found himself in the unfamiliar position of having to defend his actions to old family friends. The Democratic Party, for example--which A.B. helped build and which Ed sustained and which Barry is still a member of--has pulled all its printing jobs.

"We have used, and will always use, union printers," says Howard Gelt, chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party. "Since Mr. Hirschfeld is not using a union shop, we will not be printing there."

Soon after the strike began, state senator Dennis Gallagher stopped by the picket lines to talk to the workers. He later wrote a letter to Hirschfeld. "I wanted to let you know what impressed me the most was that many of the workers had been with your company for 20, indeed, even 30 years," he wrote. "Some workers remembered your father and your grandfather with great fondness."

In urging Hirschfeld to return to the bargaining table and to try to reach an accord with the union, Gallagher appealed to the third-generation pressman's sense of tradition. "I think it is what your father and grandfather would want," he wrote.

Barry Hirschfeld, though, says the break from the past is inevitable. "I don't like it," he says. "It's not comfortable. It's not my style. But it is what it is."

end of part 2

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