Vol XI, No. 41TNG/CWA Local 31041April 25, 2000


The membership will vote on the proposed work-to-rule program tomorrow.

The vote will be taken during a regularly scheduled membership meeting at the Guild office, 270 Westminster St., at 12:30 p.m.

Long in the planning stages, the program is intended to increase pressure on the company to negotiate a fair contract with the Guild.

If approved at the meeting, the program would ask union members to strictly honor the terms of the contract, insisting on overtime payment for work beyond the 7.5 workday.

It would be up to the executive board to actually institute the program.

The plan currently is not to begin work-to-rule until after the May 3 bargaining session with the company.

Also at the meeting, nominations will be made for annual elections of Guild officers and other members of the executive board and to the unit council.

Only those members who are in "good standing" will be allowed to vote. This means people who are up-to-date on their dues payments.

Most members have paid their dues. Those who haven't will be admitted to the meeting if they bring their back payments with them.

The dues situation arose in February, when the company stopped collecting dues through automatic "checkoff" or payroll deduction.

The Guild has provided two basic ways of paying dues. Members who have major credit cards can authorize the union to deduct the payments monthly; also, members can ask the union to bill them month, and pay by check.

The Guild is fighting the company's termination of checkoff. Meanwhile, the company has gone to court to try to block arbitration of the issue.


QUESTION: What is work-to-rule?
ANSWER: It's following the contract's provisions as closely as possible; but doing no more than is required. For example: the contract calls for a 7.5 hour work day. That means not starting early or leaving late - unless you've made arrangements to be paid for the overtime. And it means withholding those little extras that make it easier to overcome the day-to-day problems of the complex process of putting out a newspaper.

Q: What is the union's goal in work-to-rule?
A: To make it more difficult and more expensive for the company to publish the newspaper. By withholding those little favors, we will be able demonstrate the value of our good will and create an economic push for the Journal to reach agreement with the Guild for a new contract.

Q: Can I be disciplined for working-to-rule?
A: No. The whole point is to follow the contract, not to violate it. This means doing exactly what is expected of you. It means putting in a full and honest day's work. It can mean being extra careful to do your job, including steps that in the past you might have skipped to streamline the work process. Managers may become short-tempered about the process, but they can't fault workers who carry out their assignments to the letter.

Q: What if I can't get my work done on time?
A: As soon as you discover that your work may be backing up, inform your supervisor. As him or her whether you should work overtime, carry over the work the following day or turn it over to someone else. Ultimately, it's not your problem, it's management's problem -- and in the end, the Fourth Floor executives' problem.

Q: Can I be ordered to work overtime?
A: The contract allows for reasonable overtime assignments. This does not mean you can be forced to work if you are sick, or if there is an urgent personal problem - for instance, your kids will be stuck at day care with no one to pick them up. Remember, bad management on their part is not necessarily an overtime emergency on your part. As a rule, you should follow the instructions of your supervisor; disputes can be ironed out later by the Guild. And don't hesitate to inform the union if you think there is a problem. You should not shoulder work-to-rule problems yourself; it's a union activity, and you will have the support of the Guild.

Q: If I have to leave on time, won't I be dumping extra work on another union member?
A: No. If the work you aren't able to do is assigned to a colleague, and that person's work day is extended, then he or she should do what you've had to do: inform his or her supervisor. The point is that this is management's problem. So the extra work, if there is extra work, gets shifted from worker to worker until it required a management decision, not dumped on the last Guild person to turn out the lights.

Q: I'm not really sure of what my job description is; how do I know how to limit my work?
A: Think about what is expected of you in the normal course of your work week; the job descriptions, written by the company, often aren't very descriptive of the full extent of your work - it's almost impossible to get into writing everything Guild members do. Then carry out your regular duties as closely to the job expectations as you can - and don't go over the line unless you get paid for it. Asking for them to describe your job can be counter-productive; it gives them a chance to add new work. Just do what you've been doing, and watch out for new duties that might be assigned and take up more of your already overbooked time.

Q: When will work-to-rule begin?
A: If the program is approved by the membership Wednesday, the executive board will decide when to go forward. In any case, that would not happen until after the next scheduled negotiating session, May 3, after which the board will have a chance to assess the progress of the talks.

Q: Will the company retaliate against the union by making it more difficult for someone to adjust his or her schedule for personal reasons?
A: It is likely that at least some managers will - and that we will find them much more adept at work-to-rule than we are. Guild members should plan to find management less flexible than in the past. But this does not have to be the case. Remember: the Guild is suggesting a 7.5 hour day -- if some of those hours are time-shifted with a supervisor's permission, the contract's requirements are still met.

Q: Will the workplace get tenser; will personal relationships suffer with supervisors?
A: Possibly. It depends on the individuals involved. Some supervisors will take this personally. They shouldn't. This program isn't aimed at middle managers, but at the officials of the Journal Company and Belo Corporation who have set a hostile course of action against the Guild. Therefore, we should treat our supervisors respectfully and professionally, remembering their difficult position.

Q: What are some examples of work-to-rule?
A: The most obvious is to work your scheduled hours, making sure to take all the breaks you're entitled to. During the past week, the union newsletter has suggested some specific actions: display ad salespersons might schedule their work day to be on the road as much as possible; reporters, rather than sloughing off a story with a single phone interview, might conduct several interviews in person; photo editors might leave the desk during lunch. Throughout the day, most of us do little extras that make the place run better - loading a printer, picking up page proofs for our colleagues; reminding a supervisor of something she might have forgotten; attending a professional seminar on our lunch hour' or making a suggestion that saves the paper money. These are the extras that should be cancelled.

Q: What if there is a news emergency, such as the Young shooting? Does work-to-rule mean depriving the public of vital information?
A: Absolutely not. Our beef is with upper management, not the public. In fact, big breaking stories usually mean lots of overtime work, and plenty of overtime is a hardship on the company. The Guild is not asking anyone to leave stories unwritten, assignments uncovered, or work half-finished. The purpose of work-to-rule is to make management feel the importance of the Guild's contribution of enthusiasm and 101-percent effort.

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