In an overwhelming vote that is the largest "no" vote in Guild history, the union's membership has rejected the company's contract proposal. The tally - including absentee mail-in ballots that were counted this morning - was 354 to 28.The total vote cast was 382, which is 83 percent of the union's membership of 460. The total voting marked what is believed to be the highest turnout in the union's history. Of those voting, 93 percent rejected the offer. Several non-members signed on as Guild members, allowing them to participate in the vote.
Turned down was an offer by the company that contained 3 percent raises in each of three years in a proposed new agreement.
The negotiating committee and the executive board both recommended that the offer be rejected, in part because it lacked the Belo Corp. pension and 401k retirement programs that have been extended to other Providence Journal employees.
The company's proposal also failed to adequately address problems in the Pre-publication department, ignored requests for an employee voice in advertising incentives, and took away holiday and vacation benefits currently in the contract.
In addition, the company has imposed health plans that are more expensive and in some cases less flexible than those last year. At the same time, the company demanded the Guild drop grievance and National Labor Relations Board appeals to its bargaining tactics, which included imposing some of its contract provisions even though negotiations were on-going.
The secret paper ballot voting, during a two-day period that ended yesterday at 5 p.m., was the culmination of a concerted effort on the part of the union urge a strong turnout and to inform members about the issues.
During the past two weeks, the union has published newsletters each weekday outlining the issues, as well as containing opinions from individual union members about the proposals. It is notable that not one letter - signed or anonymous - was received urging a vote in favor.
Union members wore large stickers and tags declaring that they would Vote NO! on the contract; conferences were scheduled on two days in the cafeteria to discuss the situation; and yesterday, union leaders analyzing sign-in sheets spread the word to those who hadn't voted that there still was time left.
The no vote means now the Guild's negotiators will ask the company to improve its offer by addressing the needs and desires of Journal employees.
The previous record vote was Sept. 9, 1994, when the Guild turned down a company offer, 306 to 26.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495