Vol XI, No. 15TNG/CWA Local 31041February 1, 2000

Voting on the company's contract proposals begins tomorrow.

Secret ballots may be cast beginning at 12:30 p.m., Wednesday, at the Guild office, during the first of two membership meetings to discuss the contract offer.

Voting will continue through a second membership meeting at 5 p.m., and continue through 7 p.m. On Thursday, the ballot box will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The executive board and the negotiating committee are recommending that the company's offer be rejected.

Labeled by company negotiators as their "last, best and final" contract offer after 14 bargaining session, the company position contains health coverage inferior to that in the current Guild contract, would impose a number of take-backs, and does not offer the Belo 401k and pension retirement programs provided other Journal employees.

Guild negotiators believe that the company has repeatedly broken federal labor laws during the negotiations, including its tactics of unilaterally imposing medical plans, parking and other benefits.


I am a Guild member and I am going to vote NO to the contract.

The health benefits: Weren't you listening when some of the members came forth and said "I will need Blue Cross to meet my medical needs?"

I still for the life of me don't get the parking issue. Why can't a company as large as this provide parking for their employees who use their cars for the job? You own the parking places! If this same building was located in the suburbs of Warwick or Smithfield it wouldn't even be an issue. Parking would be right outside the door.

You say look at your neighbor to see what they are getting for a raise and benefits. I don't have to go too far. My neighbors, the non union members, are getting better pension and 401K benefits and have a

3 percent raise and more. Why should I go out and ask anyone in RI when better benefits are right at the next desk. And they wouldn't be getting them if it weren't for the union's work. Wouldn't it be easier if the whole company had the same benefits anyway?

We have grievances for a reason. I know if I had a grievance I wouldn't want the union to just forget about it. We have grievances because you aren't living up to the contract. Get real.

And why are we giving up a personal day? You've taken it away from non-union members, so we can't have it either. But we bargained for it, remember? (Does my Easter basket have a hole in it?)

I think we deserve better. I think our contract should be better than what we already have. I think we are all proud of the work we do, doesn't that deserve more?

State Staff
I urge you to send management a clear message that this contract is unacceptable. In a recent letter to our membership, Publisher Howard Sutton advises us to ask our neighbors and friends if the 3 percent raises the Company has offered is a good deal.

Any state staff reporter knows that even struggling municipalities routinely settle employee contracts with 3 percent annual wage increases. This is not stellar, merely standard. A better question to ask Mr. Sutton is: Why is our 401K plan is so pathetic? On Monday's Business page, a story by Washington Post Reporter Albert B. Crenshaw compared employee retirement investment plans among companies and found that a whopping 80 percent match employee contributions at 50 cents or more per employee dollar.

The Providence Journal plan offered exclusively to Guild members is at the bottom of the heap -- in the 8 percent of companies who contribute less than 25 cents per employee dollar. Our Belo counterparts are doing better with a match in company stock, even as that stock falls. These are the boom times, people. Belo's fourth quarter earnings noted that the Providence Journal's performance was "outstanding." You, the worker, are responsible for that success. Yet, the miserly mill-owner mentality that makes this place a daily challenge persists. Vote NO, keep asking questions and direct those questions where they belong: to management.

The issue before us is not merely whether we can accept the company's laughably stingy offer - but whether we still want union representation at the Journal.

To approve this contract is to sign a death warrant for the Guild.

Here are some of the ways in which the company's proposal attempts to bust the union:

--The company is offering the Guild a benefits package that is dramatically inferior to that received by nonunion employees. What would be the point of a union under those circumstances?

--The company wants to unilaterally change our medical benefits however it pleases during the contract term. A contract that involves no commitment is not a contract.

--The company wants the Guild to surrender its already weak clauses allowing some members subsidized parking, in exchange for a vague unwritten promise that some people (we're not sure who or how many, but we know it's not everybody) might get free parking (but just for a while, we're not sure how long).

--The company wants the Guild to withdraw all its pending grievances. The ability to grieve contract violations and other forms of employee abuse is one of the main functions of a union. If we give that up, what's left?

Consider for a moment what the Journal would be like without the Guild. Where would you turn if you were treated unjustly? Who would advocate for your salary and benefits? What could you do if the company decided to save money workers by dumping a bunch of older workers on the street, as the Journal nearly did a few years ago, before the Guild intervened?

Perhaps you've heard that conditions at the Dallas Morning News are pretty good without a union. But remember, a major purpose of any good conditions is to keep the Guild out. Here, if the Guild died, there wouldn't be much hope of getting it back, and without the threat of unionization, we would all be at the mercy of Journal management.

What can we expect of Journal management? Look what they've done already: taking away personal days and vacation time, reducing medical benefits, neglecting to get us our insurance cards on time, refusing to own up to the debacle in circulation, trying to bust the union in prosperous times.

The Journal was wildly profitable last year. But was that enough? No, they want more, and more, and more-- they want to squeeze it out of the very people who made them rich. It's unconscionable.

There's only one right answer: NO!

Let them hear it loud and clear.


Questions about the contract? Meet with Guild leadership today, Tuesday, in the Journal cafeteria from 12:15 to 1 p.m.

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