Vol XI, No. 2TNG/CWA Local 31041January 10, 2000

Bandaids: The Company's Health Care
Wear Yours With Pride

Guild members: you need more than a Bandaid.

But so far, that's about all that the Journal Company is offering for medical insurance. To protest the company's approach to this issue, the Guild is distributing Bandaids. Each comes with its own safety pin, for convenient attachment to shirt, jacket, or blouse. Please wear it this week.

We leave it up to each individual whether to display the actual Bandaid, or to pin the outer wrapping to your clothing, thus preserving the actual Bandaid for later use. You may need it.

With the Scrooge-style approach to this most vital and sensitive issue being displayed by the Journal at the bargaining table, our members need all the help that we can get. As you know, the Guild's contracts for years have allowed members three solid choices for health insurance.

Under the company's ham-handed negotiating approach, the Journal has unilaterally -- and we believe, illegally -- suspended a choice of three medical plans, and thrown everyone into United Healthcare's HMO.

And even that's been botched: the company-imposed health plan has been fumbled from the outset by poor planning and administration. Many members have not been effectively enrolled and must shell out their own money, hoping reimbursements will follow when the red tape is untangled.

(One member discovered his family hadn't been enrolled by studying his paycheck stub, which had no deduction for medical coverage. So, doctor's orders: stay alert to the many layers of company mishandling of this).

In the meantime, people who need Blue Cross & Blue Shield -- the plan that provides the most options and flexibility for those with complex medical issues -- are out in the cold. So far, the company's negotiating offers have included only two other medical plans, the same potentially expensive and inadequate plans rolled out for non-union workers. All of these plans require more money for premiums, doctors' office visits and prescriptions.

So that's the company's Bandaid approach to the most important issue of our time, trying to get its hard-working employees to: a) pay more and b) get less. Pass the Bandaids, please.

Guild SWAT Team Delivers the Goods

An illegal attempt to prevent the Providence Newspaper Guild from distributing information to employees Friday ended with an apology from the company and the information safely in the hands of the membership.

The bizarre incident occurred in the Classified Advertising section shortly after lunch. Guild Vice President Jeff Andrade was passing out surveys to members when Richard Murray, newly promoted to senior sales director/personnel in the advertising division, told Andrade he must stop what he was doing and leave the section.

Andrade protested he was exercising his contractual right to distribute information to employees covered by the bargaining unit, as he has done on many occasions. Murray responded, in effect: Not in my department, you don't.

Surprised, Andrade returned to his department and contacted Guild administrator Tim Schick, who immediately lodged a protest with the Journal's Human Resources department.

Meanwhile, news of Murray's extraordinary behavior flashed around the building. Within minutes, five of Andrade's union brothers and sisters were back in Classified, distributing copies of the survey to members.

Murray again attempted to violate the contract, telling the Guild contingent they could not distribute the surveys and to stop "disrupting" his department.

Brian C. Jones, chairman of the Guild's Unit Council, informed Murray that Guild members have every right to distribute information and, in any event, had already completed the distribution with no disruption.

Schick said later that Thomas McDonough of Human Resources apologized for Murray's actions, agreeing that the contract clearly protects such activities.

"He agreed we can continue to distribute newsletters, surveys, and other informational material, as we have for more than 30 years," Schick said.

The incident was doubly puzzling in that the survey Andrade was distributing was a request for Guild members to document how much money they have lost by purchasing discounted parking vouchers for the Parkade (Biltmore Garage) lot.

On Dec. 27, an arbitrator ordered the Journal to reimburse workers who lost money when barred from using the vouchers on days when the Parkade was full.

The surveys must be returned to the Guild offices by Jan. 21, a week from Friday. The period covered by the arbitrator's order is from February 1998 to December 1999. The surveys, which must be signed, are necessary to determine how much money each worker is owed.

For more information, contact Schick at 421-9466.

Guild Wins Extra Money for Intern

The Providence Newspaper Guild has won additional money for a two-year intern reporter who was sent to Egypt in the wake of the EgyptAir crash off Rhode Island. The Guild had filed a grievance over the company's decision to send Farnaz Fassihi, an intern who speaks Arabic, on the foreign assignment.

The union applauds Fassihi's enterprise and diligence in covering the EgyptAir story. Her efforts included several major scoops, and provided much insight into cultural differences between Americans and Egyptians.

But the Guild contended that the agreement reached with the company when the intern program was first instituted provided that interns would be assigned to regional bureaus only, and that a foreign trip hardly constitutes "regional" newsgathering.

From the beginning, the union has fought against the idea of a two-tier reporting staff, arguing that the two-year reporters work as hard as others in their bureaus and should be paid at the same rate for doing the same work.

The Guild also wants the interns to be hired full-time. As the program stands now, only a tiny minority ever get hired for full-time jobs and the rest must move on after two years. Young reporters have been willing to take the lower-paying, insecure jobs for the chance to acquire experience, clips and references.

The company has argued that since interns have less experience, they should be paid less than full-time reporters.

In an agreement reached last week, the company agreed to pay Fassihi the difference between her regular salary and that earned by a first-year, full-time reporter for the two weeks she was in Egypt.

In return, the Guild will agree to drop its grievance (subject to formal approval by the Executive Committee). Unfortunately, the Fassihi agreement will have no binding effect on similar cases in the future.

Given the important issues exposed by the Fassihi case, the Guild will soon organize a meeting for all interested in the intern program and how it might be improved; stay tuned for details.

Copyright © 2000 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495