ORDERS GUILD VOTE IN CIRCULATION
In another step toward
extending union membership to a key unit at the Providence Journal, a
federal official Tuesday authorized a vote by 105 workers in the outside
circulation department on whether to join the Guild.
The top regional National
Labor Relations Board official in Boston, in ordering the election, said
the board will set a date later on when to hold the secret ballot.
The NLRB rejected
the company's position that the members of the department were "managerial"
workers and therefore not eligible for union membership.
Rosemary Pye, director
of the NLRB's Boston office, cited previous NLRB rulings about other newspapers,
as well as the actual work roles at The Journal.
Among the differences
between delivery service representatives and district managers within
the department are pay and work status, Pye noted.
Delivery service representatives
work on a part- time basis, earning between $8.90 and $10.35 per hour,
she said. By contrast, district managers are full-time and salaried, pulling
in $54,700 a year.
"In further support
of my decision, I note that the small hourly wage of the delivery service
representatives in comparison to the large salary of the district managers
is not indicative of managerial status," Pye wrote.
The delivery workers
are employed through 12 Regional Circulation Centers, Pye wrote, with
between five and 14 of the workers assigned to each distribution center.
Delivery service representatives
transfer bundles of newspapers, which come from the printing plant in
Providence, to the 640 to 1,000 carriers who deliver the papers to homes.
The service reps decide
whether there are sufficient numbers of papers and whether to request
more; they distribute notices about stop-start delivery orders, and decide
whether carriers must encase each newspaper in one or two plastic bags,
depending on the weather, she said.
The delivery service
representatives also check to make sure deliveries are carried out for
customers who've lodged complaints, fill in for missing carriers, retrieve
unsold papers from stores, collect money from honor boxes, install delivery
tubes at customers' homes and shovel snow around vending machines, Pye
None of these duties
are managerial, she wrote, saying workers can be excluded from unions
only when they formulate company policy or have discretion to make decisions
beyond established company policy.
"Their role in
deciding whether or not to have the carriers double bag newspapers in
inclement weather, or whether to ask for more newspapers in the event
of a shortage
also falls short of the type of discretionary power
that is a requisite of managerial status," Pye said.
In setting the stage
for an election, Pye ordered the company to produce a list of eligible
voters by May 23.
She noted that the
company has until May 30 to request a review of her order by NLRB officials
Guild officials and
members of the outside circulation department are prepared to work hard
to win the election, after a majority of employees in that unit signed
cards in April, requesting union representation.
Based on the Providence
Guild's successful organizing drives at the Worcester Telegram & Gazette,
leaders here expect the company to resist the effort.
In Worcester, for
example, workers had to withstand intimidation and threats by the company,
and counter arguments made at "captive audience meetings" run
by company managers for two weeks prior to the elections.
However, workers in both the Worcester paper's outside and inside circulation departments voted to join - something which bodes well for the vote here in Providence.
How can a giant $1.4-billion Dallas-based, multi-media national communications corporation save $6.29 a day?
It can change the job description
of an editorial assistant in Providence, R.I.
That way, the giant corporation
can pay the editorial assistant her basescale,
rather than the daily differential that she had received for doing the
same kind of work that she had been doing for the past six years.
Petty way to save petty cash?
Well, a pay differential here,
and a differential there, and pretty soon it adds up to a mighty $31.45
a week in "savings" for the Providence Journal and its parent,
the A.H. Belo Corp. of Texas.
After all, editorial assistants
pull in a whopping $554.61 a week, so what's $31.45 to her? (In this case,
the editorial assistant is part time at 20 hours a week, so her base salary
is much less).
Here's how corporate cost-cutting
came to pass.
Every spring for the
past six years, the editorial
At the time she was
given the assignment, an editor had told her that she would be paid a
shift differential for substituting in the higher classification of what
is now known as a Departmental Assistant.
And that's what was
done, year after year.
and exacting work, producing these lists. The newspaper publishes more
than 100 of them every year.
The end result is
a keepsake for families for whom a high school or college degree is a
lifetime achievement, memorialized in the Providence Journal, one of a
thousand reasons people turn to the newspaper, year after year.
But as graduation
season approached this year, the editorial assistant worked for a few
weeks before she remembered to enter the small-grid adjustment on her
weekly time sheets.
The company began
to pay the differential, until the payments were flagged by a newsroom
administrator, who ordered them halted.
The job description
had been changed to include the duties of graduation list preparation,
the manager declared.
This was not how the
Editorial Assistant remembered it and asked to see a copy. A few days
later, the newsroom administrator produced a new version of the job description.
And sure enough, the
list of Editorial Assistants' duties now noted that a worker in this classification
"Produces graduation lists by dealing with high schools and colleges."
The assistant then got a previous copy of the description, with graduation
lists not mentioned.
Hopefully, this is
not, as they say on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, the Final Answer.
The Guild considers
the change in the job description an arbitrary rewriting of the job classification,
something that needs to be considered at the bargaining table, not in
an administrator's office.
So the union has filed
an unfair labor practices charge, challenging the move.
It will cost the company
thousands of dollars to litigate this change.
BELO SPINS JOURNAL SALES SLIDE
The latest circulation
tally is out for The Providence Journal, and it's bad news.
The Sunday paper recorded
232,634 customers as of March 31, a loss of 5,152 compared with the same
date a year ago, a decline of about 2.2 percent.
The daily dropped
2,530 papers, to 162,099, during the same 12-month period, a loss of 1.5
The latest figures
come from the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which found that many newspapers
in the country actually increased circulation, which makes the Journal's
performance even more worrisome.
The Journal reported
a few weeks after most newspapers across the country did, one result being
that it probably won't be included in national stories about circulation
trends in the industry.
One of the reasons
for the Providence figures, of course, is the massive problem with the
newspaper's circulation system that occurred after a new computer system
was installed late last year - a problem that the Providence Journal itself
has yet to report.
However, Robert W.
Decherd, Belo chairman, did allude to the issue - well, sort of - in an
artfully spun account to the stockholders' annual meeting in Dallas May
According to the corporation's
account of the meeting posted on its website, here's what Decherd said.
Journal reduced circulation sales pressure to concentrate on the implementation
of a new circulation system, resulting in a slight decrease in circulation.
"With the successful
implementation of this system, The Journal is now poised to improve circulation
going forward," the chairman concluded.
That's one way of
Without having to
mention a new computer system that botched billing, that forgot some customers
who had paid, that dropped some subscribers, that fouled up start-stop
orders and that infuriated readers - who then were bedeviled for weeks
by an overwhelmed telephone system that kept them on hold or cut them
off all together.
Why bother shareholders with all of that?
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495