Vol XI, No. 22TNG/CWA Local 31041February 18, 2000

Fountain Street protest set For noon, Wednesday

A rally to protest the company's mean-spirited and illegal bargaining tactics will be held Wednesday, Feb. 23, at noon in front of the Journal Building.

The hour-long gathering will feature informational picketing and some choice words about the company's mistreatment of its largest union, the Guild.

No new talks have been scheduled since the union rejected the company's latest offer in a record-setting no vote, 354 to 28, on Feb. 2 and 3.

Instead of bargaining, the company has continued its attack on the union:

  • Forcing 500 bargaining unit members to work without a pay raise, even though it imposed higher-cost medical plans on its employees.

  • Attempting to take away a holiday and stretch out vacation entitlement.

  • Curbing subsidized parking, while offering free parking to other employees.

  • Trying to renege on an arbitration award the Guild won on parking by seeking to have it overturned in court.

  • Ceasing the collection of dues through payroll deduction, while encouraging members to stop paying dues and quit the union.

The rally is to demonstrate the union's determination to negotiate a fair contract on what are modest bargaining goals.

Your attendance - just as your record vote - will be another sign to the company of the union's resolve to bring negotiations to a successful end.


Continuing its show of contempt for its contract with the Guild and the 500 employees that the union represents, the company has gone to federal court to try to overturn the parking arbitration award recently won by the Guild.

Court action is unusual in cases where union contracts provide for binding arbitration.

Arbitration is meant to resolve honest disputes with a minimum of friction, with both sides pledging the live with the results of the arbitrator's decision.

Instead, the company is trying to worm its way out of the award, using what the Guild considers a frivolous lawsuit that has little chance of success.

At stake is a considerable amount of money.

The Guild estimates that the company may owe bargaining unit members as much as $400,000.

The fact that the company is resorting to this dodge to escape its obligations underscores again the importance of the Guild's demand that the company's "free" parking proposal made during the current negotiations be put in writing.

If the company can't be relied to own up to its obligations when they are in the contract, consider the trustworthiness of the company's free parking plan that it has insisted be kept outside of the contract, subject to cancellation or change at any time.

The arbitration award is the result of a grievance filed by the union in 1998 after parking became scarcer in downtown Providence because of the city's economic revival.

The company began turning away Guild members who had purchased discount stickers to the Journal-owned Parkade garage, behind the Omni Biltmore Hotel, even though parking spaces were available.

The dispute involves workers who are not required to use their cars for work (those who must provide their own cars now get free parking).

The people involved include classified advertising employees and scores of other employees who spend their shifts inside Journal building and use cars for commuting. The case also affects city-side reporters who technically aren't required to use their cars for work, but as a matter of practice frequently do drive their cars for work.

Under the contract, workers also are allowed to purchase per diem stickers in the nearby Parkade garage at $3.50 apiece.

The contract also provides that employees will be offered parking in a Fountain Street lot, and that the company will make a good faith effort to find subsidized downtown parking for those waiting for space in the lot.

As the downtown traffic crunch worsened, a guard was posted at the garage to turn away its own workers, who were forced to find on-street parking or vastly more expensive commercial spaces.

Those with monthly passes to the garage and the ground lot were able to continue to park. But the company declined to issue added monthly passes or to reserve space that Guild members needed.

In the case filed in U.S. District Court Feb. 16, the company's lawyers, Richard A. Perras and Lincoln D. Almond (son of the governor) contend that the arbitrator "exceeded his authority" under the collective bargaining agreement.

In siding with the union, the arbitrator ordered the union and the company to agree on what a fair payment to Guild members should be.

The arbitrator reserved the right to keep the case open if no such agreement was made, and the Guild has asked for a new hearing in which the arbitrator would be asked to make an award.

In contrast to the Guild's estimate of an award of as much as $400,000, the company during contract talks offered to settle the case for $10,000.

As it stands now, non-Guild employees are allowed to park free in the company lot and garage. Guild members with passes continue to park at subsidized rates. Those without passes no are no longer allowed to purchase subsidized garage stickers. The Guild contends this continues to violate the contract.

In its "offer" of free parking to the Guild, the company demanded parking not be part of the contract, and wants to scrap the language on subsidized parking that is at the heart of the arbitration.

The company demanded in its contract proposal -- which the Guild rejected by a 354 to 28 vote -- that the union drop all other outstanding grievances and unfair labor practice allegations.


With the Guild headed for a long fight with the company for a new contract, the local's parent union is stepping up to the plate with some welcome help.

The Newspaper Guild- Communications Workers of America agreed to cover the local's legal expenses for the 19 arbitrations it has pending as well as unfair labor practice charges, two of which have been filed so far.

Also, the Washington office has offered loans, if needed, as the Guild installs a dues-collection program, following the company's suspension of payroll dues checkoff.

The legal aid frees up the union's own financial stockpile to be used for efforts aimed at achieving a fair contract.

The legal expenses could be considerable: arbitrations cost between $5,000 and $10,000 each, so the commitment could be worth at least $190,000.

The financial backing ensures the Guild will have the full resources to defend the rights of its members.

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