Vol XI, No. 63 TNG/CWA Local 31041 September 19, 2000

After losing parking case, both in arbitration
and District Court, company files in Appeals Court

Persisting in its misuse of the legal system as a weapon against the Guild, The Journal Co. has appealed the U.S. District Court ruling that upheld the union's win in the parking arbitration case.

This means that resolution of the dispute, now 2-½ years old, will be delayed even further.

The appeal is another example of the company's abuse of the court system to escape its losses through the grievance and arbitration system.

It is unusual for either companies or unions to appeal arbitration decisions. Courts generally frown on such moves, as the whole idea of arbitration is to provide a way for management and labor to resolve disagreements relatively quickly and cheaply.

But the company's tactics have been to resort to what the union believes are frivolous lawsuits with two apparent motives:

  • To drag out cases long after the company first violated contract terms in a cynical version of a "justice delayed, justice denied" strategy, meant to wear down the resolve of union members.
  • To force the union to spend money in response to these frivolous cases.

The parking court case is one of three court suits that the company has filed against the Guild in attacking the binding arbitration system.

The company also has run to federal court to block the Guild from arbitrating the company's cancellation of payroll dues collection. And it has filed suit to prevent the union from arbitrating a grievance in which it contends that six members with lifetime job guarantees should receive raises and other benefits granted non-Guild workers.

As it has with the company's foot-dragging tactics at the bargaining table, the Guild has stood up to the stall-in-court ploy - helped by the fact that The Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America is picking up all of the local's legal costs.

The Guild has won all the rounds in the parking case: the arbitration and the initial court suit.

Last Friday, the company indicated that it was going to the legal well again: the union was notified that the company has appealed to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the First District.

While the outcome of any legal case is never guaranteed, this appeal seems even more frivolous than the earlier parking maneuvers, in light of how clearly the lower court worded its opinion in the Guild's favor.

"This shows the lengths the company will go to avoid their contractual obligations," said Tim Schick, the Guild administrator. "I'm confident that we will prevail. Meanwhile, what the company owes our members is increasing every day."

The union filed the grievance March 11, 1998, protesting the fact that employees, who had purchased daily discount tickets to the company-owned Parkade Garage in back of the Biltmore Hotel, were being turned away when the garage was filling with other parkers.

"As the arbitrator ruled, when Guild members bought parking coupons, they were attempting to purchase parking," Schick said. "They were not buying lottery tickets."



Newshounds dodge company potholes enroute to primary; Business reporter told to take a bus to where no buses go; Editor says reporter "less valuable" if he won't use car

The newspaper is continuing to steer a wobbly course in trying to contend with a Guild's job action, in which some reporters are refusing to use their cars for company business.

The paper put roadblocks in the way of one more reporter's attempt to carry out an assignment. One editor, after turning down a reporter for an out-of-city taxi cab ride, declared that he now considers him "less valuable" because he won't make his car available for news assignments.

That comment is out of line, since the reporter is one of about 30 who never have been required to use their cars for business, and whose transportation requirements thus are the responsibility of the newspaper.

In addition, Tim Schick, the Guild's administrator, said the comment runs afoul of federal labor law.

"It is illegal for the company to discriminate against employees because of their participation in job actions," Schick said.

Earlier this summer, the Guild told the company that not all Providence-based reporters would continue using their cars to get to their assignments. The action was taken as part of the union's work-to-rule program authorized by the membership and begun in June as a response to the company's illegal bargaining tactics.

Under the Guild contract, use of cars by many Providence-based reporters is discretionary. They can use them if they want to, and then are reimbursed on a per-mile basis.

But it's a costly proposition for these reporters: they don't get the monthly car allowance provided state staff bureau reporters, photographers and advertising sales representatives who are required to use their cars. And they have to pay for their own parking around The Journal building, unlike the others, who get free parking.

Some reporters never have used their cars, including Carol McCabe, the legendary former feature writer, book editor and Washington correspondent who didn't own a car. Former investigative reporter Bob Kramer pursued underworld figures in rented cars and rarely, if ever used his own

The alternative to using one's own car has been to beg rides with photographers, or to use taxi cabs, public transportation and rental cars.
But last week, after taxi bills began to mount up - some out-of-town fares topped $50 - the company changed the rules, reportedly telling the cab firm that it would not honor vouchers for trips outside Providence.

When reporter Karen Lee Ziner attempted to order a cab to interview a political candidate in Johnston, the cab company told her about the change. The candidate came to Providence.

Now, Russ Garland, a business reporter, has had to navigate the company's penny-pinching policy.

Working on a story for his regular feature on small businesses, he told financial editor John Kostrzewa that he needed to go to Richmond, and asked whether he should take a cab or some other form of transportation.

Some days later, Kostrzewa said Garland's options were to use his car or take a bus. The editor said cab trips outside city limits were not authorized, except in special circumstances where trips close to Providence might be permitted.

Then Kostrzewa made the inappropriate comment that, with Garland declining to use his car for assignments, the reporter would now be "less valuable" to him.

Garland stuck to his guns. He wouldn't use his car. And he couldn't take a bus to Richmond: Rhode Island Public Transit Authority's buses don't go there.

Not wanting to victimize the subject of the story, Garland arranged to meet her at a conference room that her company retains in Providence. But he said that was a compromise, since he feels that business profiles are best done within a company's environment.

Meanwhile, the newspaper continued its erratic course Sept. 12, the day of the primary election.

Ariel Sabar, who was covering the Second Congressional District race, asked his editor ahead of time how he would be able to get to polling places outside Providence; it was decided that Sabar would use "Car One," the scanner/cell phone-equipped Jeep usually piloted by Providence police reporters.

That worked out well for last Tuesday, but probably won't be a generally practical solution, since, as everyone who has had the police beat knows, there is no Car Two.

At the same time, reporters assigned to campaign headquarters outside Providence asked how they would get to their assignments. Initially, editors advised them to hitch rides with photographers.

But photo editors said that wouldn't work, especially for return trips, as photographers had to come back to the paper as soon as they made their pictures, while reporters needed to stay longer for candidates' speeches.

Word then was passed that reporters - this time only - could ride to the headquarters with photographers and take cabs back to the paper.

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