Vol XI, No. 13TNG/CWA Local 31041January 28, 2000

Contract issues: Questions & Answers

The current state of negotiations and the upcoming vote Feb. 2 & 3 on the company's contract offer raise a number of questions about union members' rights and working conditions

What will happen if the Guild membership, as the negotiating committee and executive board have urged, votes to reject the company's contract offer?

The bargaining committee will work to negotiate a better agreement. The committee's ability to do so will depend, in part, on the outcome of the membership vote. An overwhelming "no" vote will strengthen the bargaining committee's position.

The union's power comes from its members. The company has indicated that it believes that Guild members are not behind the negotiating committee. A strong rejection will demonstrate that the Guild is unified in its effort to achieve what the committee believes are reasonable demands.

If I vote to reject the company's contract offer, does that mean the union will go on strike?

No. The only way the union can go on strike is for a majority of Guild members to vote for a strike. The executive board and the negotiating committee have not asked for a strike vote by the membership. The Feb. 2 & 3 balloting asks whether the members wish to reject or accept what the company has proposed.

What steps will the Guild take to encourage the company to agree to a more acceptable contract if this offer is turned down?

There are a number of actions the union can take. For example, the membership already has instructed the executive board to call for a union-wide vote on a work-to-rule program. Originally scheduled for next week, this balloting has been postponed until after the membership has had a chance to express its opinion of the company's offer.

The publisher, in a letter to his `Fellow Employees,' said that the company may "change our proposals to less" if the contract extension ends Jan. 31. Does a "no'' vote run the risk for an even worse contract later?

The company's offer already is "less." It's less than the contract that we have now. The medical plan costs more, offers less real choice and threatens to cut deeply into pay raises. The company wants to take away a holiday and delay vacation entitlements. It offers free parking, but won't put that in the contract, reserving the right to cancel the "benefit" at any time. It won't agree to extend the superior retirement benefits enjoyed by other workers.

This is what this fight is all about: the company's unprincipled and unfair attempt to make things worse - not better - for Guild workers who have done their best to make the newspaper successful and prosperous. The outcome will depend on the union's resolve and hard work to fight for a contract that improves the lives of Guild members.

There is one guarantee. A vote to accept the company's proposed contract will mean that we will have to live with a contract that is inferior to the one we have now.

The company has not agreed to extend the contract after Jan. 31. What happens if the Guild contract is terminated?

Pay and certain other working conditions and terms, which existed before expiration, must remain in effect unless different ones are negotiated.

When a contract is terminated, a handful of provisions do lapse, including the no-strike clause, and the union's right to binding arbitration of grievances filed after expiration.

The Guild has worked under an expired contract in the past, including the mid-1990s, when the contract lapsed and we worked for about a year until a new one was negotiated.

Why has the company been allowed to impose worse working conditions, even while we continue to bargain for new contract?

The Guild believes the company has bargained in bad faith and violated federal labor laws in selectively declaring a state of bargaining impasse and imposing contract proposals, such as those that would take away one of two personal holidays and impose a costly and inferior health plan.

The union has filed unfair labor practices charges, and a number of grievances. These are among the grievances and the unfair labor practices charges that the company is demanding be dropped in return for agreeing to its offer.

The company appears to be afraid that neutral third parties - the National Labor Relations Board and arbitrators - will find that it has acted improperly during these negotiations.


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.

Tony De Paul, West Bay news bureau
I can think of a dozen reasons to vote "no" on the contract offer, but mainly, I don't like the idea of dropping our case before the NLRB. That would reward the company for its provocative approach to "bargaining" and only get us more of it in the future.

This is the first round of talks with our new owners and new publisher. It's in their interest to try to take our measure and see if they can run this workplace as if it were non-union. We should defeat this miserable contract offer, then go to work-to-rule, using all available means to wage an in-house struggle for respect and a fair deal.

Hilary Horton, Newsroom
I had a rude awakening today, when I went to refill a prescription. I had been gearing up to pay $2 more than the $3 charged under the old United Health plan; we had been told that the drugs would now cost $5. Instead, I was charged $15 - a 400 percent increase.

KC Chace, Newsroom
It may seem a small bump for the majority of Guild members, who have been here for years. But other than the obvious great divides, I feel particularly let down about losing a week's worth of vacation.

My third year anniversary date was July 30, 1999. However, because that date fell after July 1, I was told I would have to wait until this year - 2000 - to take three week's vacation.

So here it is, the New Year, and now I find that I will have to work five years (plus add the six months it will take to turn the corner to the next year) for me to get a third week of vacation.

As hard as I work, and as dedicated as I've been, I am disappointed - to say the least. It would be a different story if I had been told all along that an employee has to work five years to be entitled to three week's vacation. That was not the case.

The Contract Vote
Membership Meetings

Discuss details of the company's contract offer.
DATE: Wednesday, Feb. 2
TIMES: 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m.
PLACE: Guild office, 270 Westminster St., Providence

Secret paper ballots to be cast at the Guild office:
* Wednesday, Feb. 2, 12:30 to 7:30 p.m.
* Thursday, Feb. 3, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Absentee ballots on request: call Tim Schick, Guild administrator, 421-9466

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