Vol XI, No. 48 TNG/CWA Local 31041 May 31, 2000

ProJo Dodges Contract Talks,
Continues Anti-Union Efforts

The Providence Guild continues to call for negotiating sessions with the Journal, even as the Journal negotiators told a federal mediator they were not available for talks.

Guild officials believe the Journal is dodging contract talks in order to create a campaign issue in the effort by the Journal's outside circulation department to join the Guild.

The Company's 100 Delivery Service Representative will be voting by mail ballot from June 9 through June 26 in a mail ballot election supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. Ballots will be counted June 27.

Meanwhile, the Journal is again pressuring Guild members to accept the contract proposal they rejected 354-28 three months ago.

In a letter to Guild members that was distorted as much by what was left out as by what was actually said, the Journal last week reaffirmed the company's take-it-or-leave-it approach to negotiations that continues to prolong the talks.

The letter both misrepresented the Guild's moves designed to bring the two sides toward agreement, and threatened again to worsen, rather than improve, the company's last offer.

"The company continues to give a one-sided and inaccurate description of the negotiations," Bob Jagolinzer, Guild president, said last the weekend.

"The fact is that the company is trying to force the Guild to accept a second-rate contract that is worse in many respects than the one we have now. More seriously, it would be inferior to the benefits the company provides its other workers," Jagolinzer said.

The Journal claimed that the company's offer is an improvement over terms of the current contract.

And the Company suggested that Guild members ask union leaders whether "the positions they are taking are economically reasonable."

Over and over, the Journal tries separate members from what it calls the "Guild leadership," referring to the "new Guild leadership offer," imploring members to lobby "your union leadership" to adopt the company's view.

The Journal ignores the fact that the Guild's contract proposals are membership driven. They are the result of membership survey's, meetings and votes.

Unlike Journal management, the Guild leadership is democratically elected - in fact; they currently are in the process of being reelected.

Guild decisions are made by town-meeting style forums and secret mail ballots, and that the company's offer was rejected in the biggest "no" vote in local Guild history.

"The Guild's position all along has been reasonable and modest, trying to win equitable benefits, and at the same time, attempting to solve workplace problems in a way that will make the newspaper better," said Guild president Jagolinzer.

But the company has refused to discuss constructive ideas like allowing Guild members a voice in advertising incentives, has avoided solving ruinous problems in pre-publishing, and declined to improve contract provisions for job-sharing and other problem-solving moves that might encourage employees to stay at the newspaper.

Instead, the company - in the Guild's view - repeatedly has violated federal labor law by illegally changing contract provisions.

"At a time when the Journal faces critical issues - including the newspaper's steadily declining circulation and the challenge of adapting to new Internet and other technological changes - the company chooses to waste its resources by waging war on its workers,'' Jagolinzer said.

"These workers - the 500 women and men represented by the Guild - deserve much better for their loyalty, their hard work and their creative efforts to make the company succeed and profit," Jagolinzer said.

"They deserve a speedy and fair resolution to contract negotiations," the union president said. "And they deserve to be spoken to with honesty and respect."


The newspaper's proposal takes away benefits and would leave Guild members worse off than under the current contract, and also worse off than other workers at the newspaper.

The Journal stated: "if judged by objective standards, (the company's offer) is superior to what employees at other companies are receiving and not only maintains but extends the conditions that Providence Journal Company employees have always enjoyed."

The Guild has, from the beginning of negotiations been willing to modify the benefits provided by the contract. However, Guild members must not lose in the deal.

For years we have enjoyed medical, pension and holiday benefits superior to those provided to non-Guild workers. In recent years non-Guild workers have had somewhat better retirement benefits.

What the Company is seeking to do is if offer the inferior portions of the Belo benefits, while withholding the portions that are better.

The Guild has scaled back its contract proposal, trying to move closer to the company's position; but the company has steadfastly refused to change its offer since Jan. 24.

"The demands presented by the Guild leadership have increased," the Journal said, posturing that he is "at a loss to explain how the new Guild leadership offer… is an attempt to move us closer."

On May 3, the Guild lowered its wage demand by dropping the second year wage increase from 5 percent to 4 percent. And the union has said it does not expect wages to be an issue, if other issues are resolved.

Also, the union adopted the company's cap on health insurance premiums, agreeing to have workers pay a full 5 percent of premiums.

The union also changed its retirement package to provide for the new 401k plan that the Belo Corp. is offering to other workers.

The union proposed a 2.75% signing bonus to resolve the unfair payment of a bonus to non-Guild workers earlier this year, when the company bypassed a "gainsharing" bonus to the Guild. The union also offered to drop a pay-hike grievance, which we estimate is worth $250,000.

The medical and dental plans called for by the contract are better and less costly to workers than those being proposed by the Company.

The Journal wrote that the company has offered "superior health and dental benefits (the same benefits enjoyed by me, the Publisher, non-union employees, Teamsters, and Pressmen)."
"Superior" to what?

The Journal also declares that the Guild continues to seek a Blue Cross option "that the company knows the carrier will not provide on any reasonable basis."

Blue Cross told the Guild that it would offer coverage to the Journal if employees were offered a range of its plans: Classic, BlueCHiP HMO and Coast-to-Coast. Blue Cross does not want to offer just Classic, because it feels the numbers of insured persons in that plan is too low.

The Guild believes the company's goal is to weaken and eventually destroy the union.

"I have seen it written on multiple occasions and in quotes from union leaders that the company is trying to break the union. I can tell you unequivocally that that is not true, and that we have told your leadership formally and informally that is not true," the Journal said.

If the company is not trying to attack the union, why is it attempting to impose inferior benefits on Guild members?

Consistently, the company has proposed putting off the discussion of pensions, trying to defer negotiations to contract re-openers months after the main agreement has been hashed out. The re-opener approach is an illusion. The Guild has no guarantee that the company will offer benefits equal to other workers.

The Company has illegally imposed the worst of its contract proposals on the Guild - more costly medical benefits, a lost holiday - while cutting off dues collection and trying to encourage members to quit the union. It repeatedly has violated terms of the contract, forcing the union to file more than 20 grievances and two unfair labor practice complaints, and the company has twice run to court in an attempt to prevent enforcement of the contract.

The company has dangled illusory benefits in front of Guild members, proposing "free parking," which at first blush seems like a solution to a painful and long-term issue, but at second glance actually would strip written parking benefits from the contract and give the company exclusive rights to cancel or change parking benefits at its whim.

Meanwhile, the company is using unprincipled tactics in trying to discourage 105 outside circulation workers from joining the Guild - illegally and inaccurately warning those prospective members that they will lose pension benefits they enjoy now if they join our union.

How is any of this "not anti-union"?

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