Emily Everett

13 years at the Free Press

Amid the chaos wreaked by these companies I see wondrous moments with the best people I know. And these aren't rose-colored glasses. We've seen each other at our worst, like picketing in sub-zero temps in the middle of the night, pelted with snow and burn barrel smoke. I've seen men with tears in their eyes, and not just from pepper spray. Gentle people have screamed in rage at friends who betrayed them by crossing the line, and we've taken our stress out on each other. Onetime strangers have spilled embarrassing secrets at 3 in the morning. We slept in a driveway at the North Plant. We scattered when 18-wheelers came through a peaceful picket line, and embraced (strikers do that a lot), in relief that nobody was killed and in shock at the realization that our employers value a 35-cent newspaper over our lives. And we've seen each other at our best, for all those same reasons. My roots are anti-union so staying on this side of the picket line didn't come naturally. I didn't know "Solidarity Forever." My dirty little secret was that I was on strike against corporate greed, not for the union. That changed, as I watched my brothers and sisters show strength and character in the toughest of times. And as supporters not on strike showed by example what unionism is all about. I've been frightened, frustrated and frantic but never alone. That was never more evident to me than when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Strikers living on a pittance offered me money; supporters went to their locals to raise money for my health insurance. None of this is to say we haven't had fun. Far from it. I was a latecomer to the News' weekly Soup & Suds get-togethers and found some of my best friends there. Friendships — and probably arteries — were solidified over striker specials (grilled cheese and fries for 99 cents) at the Anchor. Strikers on a 20-hour bus trip to Washington, D.C., still laugh over a particularly memorable interlude. In The Detroit Sunday Journal newsroom, journalists who once competed come together to do some of the best journalism this town has ever seen. Teamsters, printers, mailers, paper handlers, pressmen and Guild members have blended so that we often forget who's in which union. Too much damage has been done — to friendships, livelihoods, futures — for me to feel comfortable saying it's been worth it. But too much good has been done for me to wish none of it had happened. Everything good I've taken from this experience has come from the people I stand with so proudly and I'll be forever grateful for that. Solidarity forever.

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