Vol XI, No. 20
February 10, 2000
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
WHERE WE STAND
Today, most provisions of
the Guild's contract remain in force.
Further, the company is
still required to collect dues through convenient payroll withholding, and
Guild members are still supposed to pay dues
If this sounds contrary
to what the company told union members in its Feb. 8 notice, declaring that
union security provisions and dues check off are not longer in force because
the contract expired Feb. 1, it is.
What gives? The problem,
simply, is that the company is breaking law. And it's playing fast and loose
with the contract and with the truth.
The company has given
only part of the picture about the current state of negotiations, avoiding
discussion of legal and contractual protections that support the union's
It is outrageous for the
management of the sacred trust that is a newspaper to so misinform its
employees - in writing.
What follows is the
Guild's best information about the current status of the contract and of
negotiations, in Q & A form.
QUESTION: Has the
contract been terminated?
ANSWER: Yes. The one-month extension of the contract's Dec. 31, 1999
term, expired at the end of January.
Q: What does that
A: The no-strike clause is no longer in effect, and, although the
Guild can file new grievances, it cannot take them to binding arbitration.
Other than that, federal law says that the "terms and conditions"
of the contract remain in force, including wages and benefits and other
Q: Can the company
fire me, or take other disciplinary action against me just because the
contract has not been extended?
A: No, nothing has changed. The company is still required to abide by
the terms and conditions of the contract, and that includes important
disciplinary protections that say the company can take action against workers
only for "just and sufficient cause," a legal phrase that has firm
legal meaning about treating people fairly.
Q: But the company
already has changed some provisions of the contract. It's put new health
benefits in place, taken away a holiday, delayed vacation entitlement. Why is
it able to do that?
A: Legally, it can't. But like a speeder doing 85 in a 55 mile-an-hour
zone, or a burglar crawling through a window in a house, the company has
chosen to deliberately break the law, at least until the cops are called.
Q: Who are the cops in
A: The National Labor Relations Board and professional arbitrators.
The Guild has filed unfair labor practices with the NLRB, saying the company
is bargaining in bad faith, making one-sided changes in the contract and
engaging in "direct-dealing" with individual union members rather
than negotiating with the Guild.
Further, before the
contract expired, the union filed for arbitration on some of these same
points, meaning that an arbitrator can find the company violated the
These are among the
unfair labor practice charges and grievances the company demanded be dropped
as a condition for accepting its latest offer, which was rejected by the 354
to 28 vote last week.
Q: When are we likely
to get rulings?
A: The labor board's Boston office could issue a preliminary ruling by
March or later. Appeals could take longer. Arbitration typically takes about
Q: What's to stop the
company from breaking the law or the contract in the meantime?
A: In urgent cases, the union can turn to the courts, rather than to
arbitrators, for help.
Q: What could change
the current situation?
A: The negotiations at some point can reach a point of "legal
impasse," when it is determined that there is no chance of reaching
agreement through further bargaining.
Q: What happens then?
A: The company is allowed to impose all or part of its bargaining
proposals, although it cannot worsen its offer. All other aspects of the
working conditions remain in effect until there is an agreement.
Q: Who determines
whether legal impasse really has happened?
A: The officials at the NLRB, based on their investigation of the
negotiations, something they've been doing since the first labor charges were
filed by the union.
Q: The company, in its
letter, said that negotiations are at impasse. Are they?
A: No. The Guild disputes the company's view, and is ready to continue
to negotiate. The union also believes that the company illegally declared
selective impasses when it imposed the new health plans, and later when it
put other provisions into effect.
Q: The company said
that "the union security provisions, dues check off and arbitration
provisions are no longer in effect." What is the case?
A: The statement is incorrect as to union security - the portion of
the contract that requires workers to pay dues to the union - and to dues
check off, in which the company collects dues through payroll deduction and
forwards the funds to the union.
Q: What is the case
with union security?
A: A special section of our contract requires that employees continue
to pay dues through the NEXT contract. That provision remains in force.
Here's what Memorandum of
Agreement No. 8, section 11, says: "The provisions of Article II, Section 5 in the
News and Advertising Agreements shall be continuously in force, to the extent
permitted by law, from the date of this Agreement until expiration of the
Collective Bargaining Agreement which succeeds the current Collective Bargaining
Q: The company says
that bargaining unit members "are free to join or not join the
Guild." Is this true?
A: Yes. And that's the case even when the contract is in effect. Under
U.S. Supreme Court rulings, unions and companies can agree only to an agency
shop, in which employees are required to pay a fair share of dues to keep the
union operating. But they aren't required to actually join.
Q: So what's the case
with dues check off?
A: The Guild believes that legally, the check off provisions remain in
effect, both under terms of the contract, and under terms of the individual
agreements members have signed authorizing the company to collect dues
through payroll withholding. Those forms contain narrow windows in which the
authorizations can be withdrawn, 15 to 30 days before expiration of the
contract or 15 to 30 days before the anniversary of an individual signing of
the check off form.
Q: Since the company
has declared that it will improperly halt dues check off, what will the union
A: The union will set up programs to make payment of dues as
convenient as possible. The union is planning to make the collection once a
month. Dues payment, as we noted, is still required as a condition of
employment, despite the company's statement to the contrary.
Q: Given the company's
conduct, what will the Guild do now?
A: In addition to pursing the legal challenges, the union will
schedule rallies, and develop a program to put economic pressure on the
newspaper, in an effort to persuade the company to reach agreement for a new
Q: Does this mean that
the union will go on strike?
A: Not yet. The executive board has not called for this very serious
step, which can only be taken if a majority of members voting decide to do
Q: What is the Guild
to make of the company's actions?
A: The union believes that the company understands that its members
are committed to the union. In past years, when members could quit the union,
very few did. And last week's vote shows deep support for obtaining a good
contract. In light of that, the company seems to be trying to interfere with
the Guild's ability to raise money to run the union.
Overall, the company is
showing little regard for the law or its workers.
In Schick's words:
"The company is displaying utter contempt for federal labor law, for the
Guild and for its employees. It is clear that the company is not interested
in seriously discussing the concerns of its employees, but is intent on doing
whatever it damn well pleases."
Copyright © 2000 The Providence
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495