Vol XI, No. 12TNG/CWA Local 31041January 27, 2000

Contract issues

Why won't the company put its offer in writing? Why might it `change or eliminate' free parking?

Last fall, the company announced a "free parking" program.

On the surface, this seemed like the culmination of a long-time Guild goal, something that the union has sought and proposed for years.

And it sure seemed a no-brainer for an instant across-the-table agreement by the two bargaining teams. At last, elimination of an expensive, worrisome issue. So what's the problem?

It's not in writing.

The company has steadfastly refused to make its proposed free parking and subsidized mass transit bus ticket program part of the Guild contract.

Worse, the only thing that the company has put in writing to the Guild is a refusal to guarantee parking and an alternative bus subsidy as a definite benefit.

Here's what Thomas J. McDonough, human resources manager, wrote Tim Schick, Guild administrator, last Nov. 18, 1999:

"This free parking and bus service would be on a non-contractual basis and may be changed or eliminated by the Company."

Another way of putting it is: Trust us.

Trust us? Guild members are still smarting from another unwritten assurance by a company official. We still remember, when the Providence Journal was being turned into a public company, the statements of former publisher Steve Hamblett's that the newspaper was not for sale. So now as we negotiate with the new owner of the newspaper, the Guild quite reasonably is asking for the parking policy to be made part of the contract.

Especially because parking already is part of the contract.

There are three sections that offer subsidized parking in a company lot and parking garage, and further, promise that the company will make a "good faith effort" to find discounted parking for workers in non-company lots if there isn't room in its own facilities.

The importance of having these provisions in writing was demonstrated when, after parking became hard-to-find downtown, the company began blocking Guild members from the Parkade garage when it was full, even though they bought subsidized stickers. The Guild filed a grievance. And recently, an arbitrator ruled in the Guild's favor.

Now, as part of the non-contractual non-offer of free parking, the company is proposing to eliminate those sections dealing with subsidized parking from the contract.

The Guild is hardly being unreasonable in asking that the "benefit" be part of the contract. In fact, the National Labor Relations Act gives unions the right to have negotiated benefits reduced to writing.

The law provides for ..."execution of a written contract incorporating any agreement reached if requested by either party."

Free parking potentially is a great benefit.

But it is only a benefit, if the company is willing to reduce it to writing. At best, the company's approach raises common sense suspicions.

Why did the company go out of its way to suggest that at any time in the future it might change or cancel the program?

We challenge the company to prove they are not playing a shell game.

Put the parking plan in writing!


The Guild Leader is seeking your opinions about the company's contract offer, which will go to a secret ballot vote Feb. 2 & 3. Send to Brian Jones, newsroom, or e-mail them to brijudy@ids.net.

Peter B. Lord
Journal environmental writer

"I am opposed to the contract because these tiny pay raises, coupled with increasing charges for health insurance, aren't moving us ahead. My wife gets paid significantly more money with much better benefits to teach first grade.

"I'm also tired of these games over the parking. The company took away my parking spot while I was on leave, citing some rule I never heard of. Now I waste time every day trying to find a place to park so I can go to work. You'd think the company would want to encourage us to get in and do our jobs, not make it difficult."

A non-Guild member of the bargaining unit, who asks to be anonymous for fear of reprisal.

"The contract proposals the company is offering are an insult and very upsetting.

"1. The cost of prescriptions were previously affordable. They will now be a real strain on my budget, and I can't afford to pay any more for medical coverage than I do already.

"2. It scares me to think my medical plan could be switched at any time. My daughter has a pre-existing health problem that could possibly not be covered by a new health carrier.

"3. I certainly would like to have all the wonderful benefits that non-bargaining unit employees enjoy. But, if we were a non-union company, I'm sure a good portion of those wonderful benefits would disappear. That really scares me.

"So, please vote no."

A Guild member in the Features Department:

"Although the company has increased their wage offer from 2 to 3 percent, this does not sufficiently compensate for increases in uncontrolled medical expenses, loss of a personal day, denial of A.H. Belo retirement benefits and the rest.

"Additionally, use of temporary employees in pre-publishing, loss of previously awarded benefits, and flat-out dropping of grievances is not good faith bargaining.

"Those proposals which undermine our standard of living are insulting enough to our value as employees, but we cannot and should not waver or consider using essential pillars of our union, such as the right to grieve (existing grievances), as bargaining chips.

"This offer is not fair, or equitable. Vote NO!"

A Moment of Silence

At noon, tomorrow - Friday - please take a minute to silently reflect on the unfairness of the company's contract proposals. Stand up at your desk, remain seated. Wherever you are, stop to think of what the company is trying to do you and your union. For just a minute.

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