Vol XI, No. 52 TNG/CWA Local 31041 June 14, 2000


Demonstration set for Friday noon

Support the circulation workers.
And cheer on the Guild negotiators.
Those are the twin goals of a rally scheduled for Friday at noon in front of the Journal Building.

The demonstration, sponsored by The Providence Newspaper Guild and the state AFL-CIO, is dubbed a "Rally to Protect Our Voice@Work."
The rally comes as more than 100 outside circulation workers are voting by mail ballot on their bid to join the Guild, with the ballots to be counted by federal labor officials June 27.

As the accompanying article spells out, the Guild is conducting an energetic campaign to counter the company's often less-than-candid and personal anti-union tactics.

At the same time, the Guild remains determined to press for a satisfactory contract, despite the company's foot-dragging, which has gone on since last October.

The company has refused to negotiate since the last bargaining session more than a month ago.

Guild officials believe that the company has resisting union requests to resume bargaining because of the pending union election by circulation workers.

Demonstrations like last week's byline strike, the recent leafleting of a State House ball that was sponsored by The Journal and Friday's rally are all aimed at emphasizing the union's determination to get a fair agreement.

NLRB to count votes June 27; 100 workers bid to join Guild

The Guild has been waging an energetic fight to support the 100 outside circulation workers who are now voting on whether to join the union.
Supervised by the National Labor Relations Board, the mail ballot voting began June 9 and is scheduled to run through June 26.

The ballots will be counted June 27 at 11 a.m. at the NLRB's offices in Boston.

Since the NLRB approved the election May 16, the company has been waging a fierce, and often unprincipled, campaign to get the circulation workers to vote no.

But the Guild has pushed back just as hard, countering each of the company's attacks, and forcing the company in several instances to clarify positions.

DESPITE THE COMPANY'S repeated statements to the Guild during contract negotiations that it is not "anti-union", the company's campaign has been overtly anti-union, and it was stooped to personal attacks against Tim Schick, the Guild administrator.

"Let me remind you," Tom McDonough, human resources manager, wrote in a June 1 memo to delivery service representatives, "Tim Schick, the Guild administrator, is an employee of the union, not the company."

"He is paid by the union and the real wage comparison he is interested in is how much money in DSR dues he can put in the union's pocket instead of your pocket."

A few days earlier, another manager, Bob Shadrick, had sent the circulation workers a memo noting that "The Guild administrator who has failed to negotiate a contract in Worcester or Providence is the very same administrator who is promising you a better deal."

The Guild has refrained from personal attacks, but still has aggressively countered the company's arguments, especially those that have strayed from factual accounts.

Early on, the company pounced on one of the major issue of disagreement in the current negotiations between the Guild and the company, retirement plans.

The Belo Corporation and the Journal Company say they will offer most employees an enhanced 401k retirement savings plan July 1, but so far they have not offered that to the Guild.

Soon after the NLRB authorized the election in May, the company appeared to be giving the circulation workers misleading information on the retirement issue.

Shadrick, in a May 21 memo said the company had learned that the Guild told delivery service representatives they would get the enhanced 401k if they voted to join the union.

"The Guild leadership is misleading you!" Shadrick wrote. "There is NO guarantee that you would get the enhanced savings plan. The enhanced savings plan, as well as all existing wages and benefits, would be subject to negotiations."

THE GUILD QUICKLY COUNTERED, saying that the company was obligated to follow through on its promise to roll out the new 401k to the DSRs.

The union followed through with a memorandum from the Guild's general counsel stating: "once a union is certified as bargaining representative, an employer may not withdraw or withhold any benefit which it had previously scheduled or promised…."

As the war of words continued, Shadrick restated his position, trying to pretend that the union had made a "big deal out of the wrong issue."
"We never said you would lose the Enhanced Star 401(k) plan because you voted for the union. Here's what we did say! Without the union, you get the Enhanced Star 401(k) plan. With the union, you don't know, it's a risk."
The Guild noted that it is illegal for the company even to suggest that voting for a union would cause workers to lose benefits.

"Retirement benefits that have been offered to you, including the new 401(k) plan cannot be taken away from you because you vote for a union," Schick wrote. "That is the law."

Among the other issues being debated:

· Salary levels. The Guild noted that how current DSR pay - $8.90 to $11.63 an hour - compares to that of Guild workers, including janitors, who get $9.95 to $13.47. The company countered that union janitors pay dues and currently the Guild isn't being offered the 401k plan.

· Dues. The company said that the Guild currently assesses 1.8 percent of salary as dues; the Guild noted that is on base pay, not overtime, and further, under the Guild's constitution, no dues are charged until there is a first contract. It also stated that a 22-cent weekly dues assessment helps fund $13,000 in Guild scholarships.

A NUMBER OF TIMES, the company noted how long Guild-Journal negotiations are taking, which is ironic, since the Guild believes that it is the company itself which has slowed the process.

And the company said that the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, where the Guild represents workers, has been resisting an initial contract for six years.
One of the most effective responses came from the Guild's Worcester members themselves:

"Every year, our wage scales have been increased by 3 percent - because of the Guild," they wrote. And they noted what happened when the New York Times bought the paper.

"Our paper was sold in January. We were fortunate to have our union in the newsroom when that sale occurred," the Worcester members wrote.

"When the NY Times Co. bought the paper, everyone in our union was offered a job. Yet, in the non-union accounting department, much of the work has been transferred to a subsidiary in Virginia and jobs have been lost."

ANOTHER LETTER OF SUPPORT came from one of the Journal DSRs, who the company had cited as having been offered a job as a Guild janitor, but had declined it.

"The job was offered to me only after they realized that DSRs were seeking to organize," wrote Tom Flynn to his fellow workers.

"I felt it was more important to continue working on the Guild organizing committee. Money was not a consideration. The porter job IS currently better," he said, noting that he works six days a week, but only 27 hours; and the janitor's shift would have been five days, 37.5 hours and with higher pay.

"But I am thinking about the long term," Flynn wrote. "With a union, our situation can be improved. The DSR job can be a better job, if it is a union job."

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