Watch the clock! Read the paper!

Vol XI, No. 57 TNG/CWA Local 31041 July 10, 2000



·Be thorough. The temptation is to rush, especially when work is speeded up. But that means two jobs half-done, rather than one well done.
· Don't double up. Sometimes, you are asked to do the work of two people. But you can only do one job. If in doubt, ask a supervisor to choose which one; or pay overtime to have the extra work done.
· Take all breaks. A busy night or day? That means you need to take your scheduled breaks. No less. No more.
· Work the schedule. It's a 7.5 hour day. No less. No more (except on overtime)

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: When will work-to-rule begin?
A: Today, July 10.

Q: What is the union's goal in work-to-rule?
A: To apply some of the pressures of a strike, but without walking out. Work-to-rule makes it more difficult and more expensive for the company to publish the newspaper. The union intends to demonstrate the value of our good will and create an economic incentive 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. Managers may become short-tempered, but they can't fault workers who carry out their assignments to the letter.

Q: Will the company retaliate?
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. 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. Ask 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. 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 its support.

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. The extra work gets shifted from worker to worker until it requires a management decision.

Q: I'm not really sure 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.

Q: Will the workplace get more tense; will personal relationships with supervisors suffer?
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. Another is to read the paper during work, not at home. 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 he or 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 car-jacking murders? 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.

Two Guild members got the union's message out to thousands of motorists on Route 195 last Wednesday morning, holding up banners over the highway during morning drive time.

The message, on a pair of 12-foot-long painted canvas banners, was the Guild standard:


They're the same banners the Guild used at its last rally on Fountain Street and many previous occasions, with a few repairs.

The result, one of the two Guild members said, was "a hoot -- well, toot".

As soon as the banners were up, he said, drivers started signaling their support. The first was a big truck horn that honked right under the bridge. For the next 45 minutes, drivers honked their support.

The bridge the Guild used is the footbridge that carries walkers and bikers from Fox Point, near the Fox Point School, over Route 195 to India Point Park, on the waterfront at the top of Providence Harbor.

The road is the gateway for most of the traffic from the East Bay area into Providence every morning.

Fearing that the Journal management might try to censor the Guild's banners the same way it censors its own coverage of Guild activities, the Guild checked with the Rhode Island Police Chief's Association, the Providence Police and the American Civil Liberties Union to make sure there's no law against the effort. They all agreed: there isn't.

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