Vol XI, No. 64 TNG/CWA Local 31041 October 9, 2000

The congressman has worked to advance
Guild bargaining, legal moves.
Negotiations, boycott plans and special election
also on meeting agenda.

U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy will address the quarterly membership meeting of the Providence Newspaper Guild Tuesday.

The meeting is scheduled for noon, Tuesday, Oct. 10, at the Guild's second floor offices, 270 Westminster St., Providence.

Kennedy has worked with the Guild leadership in an attempt to bring the local's year-long negotiations with The Providence Journal to a successful conclusion.

The First District congressman has talked personally with both A. H. Belo Corp. chairman Robert Decherd and Journal publisher Howard Sutton.

Further, Kennedy has urged the National Labor Relations Board to move swiftly in processing the Guild's charges that the company has violated federal labor law in its negotiation tactics.

Not long after Kennedy wrote the NLRB, the federal agency indicated it is about to rule in the first of the Guild's two pending charges. The local has been told that the NLRB is preparing to act favorably.In addition to Kennedy's appearance, there are several critical matters on the meeting agenda:

  • Nominations will be accepted to fill the executive board vacancy created by the resignation of long-time union official Claire E. LaRue. Claire, a departmental assistant in the newsroom, had been a spirited and hard-working member of the board since 1995. She told the union leadership Sept. 22 she was resigning for personal reasons. She said she plans to remain active in union matters and will "stand firmly behind whatever actions the board needs to take to obtain a fair contract for all."
  • Union officials will brief rank and file members on the circulation boycott, which is now in the development stages.
  • Negotiators will update members on the status of negotiations.
    NOTE: The local's bylaws require members to have paid dues in full within the past 30 days to attend and vote at membership meetings. Those who are behind may pay at the door.
IN OUR OWN WORDS: Guild members speak


By Brian Jones

I am one of the people in the Guild who have long advocated a circulation boycott as a negotiating tool, and have been among the architects of the boycott plan that now being developed.

As a union action, it has a couple of things to recommend it.
One, it has the potential to put economic pressure on the company.

A vigorous boycott by the paper's customers will cost the Journal the income it gets from selling copies of the paper, and could eventually force lowing of ad rates.

Secondly, it does this without requiring the Guild to go on strike. A strike, of course, remains the tactic of last resort. But it's a harsh step, for both workers who leave their jobs, and for the newspaper trying to recover from a walkout.

Just as with a strike, this tactic has its problems.

The obvious one is making it work.

The Journal is already losing readers, but the ones we have left love this paper. We saw this during the company-created circulation crisis earlier this year.

The Guild is working with other labor unions, whose 80,000 members will be more ready than the general public to understand what it is being asked of them and more willing to make a temporary sacrifice of their best source of news.

The second pitfall is that readers, once separated from the paper, may not come back. I believe most will return, because they do like the paper. Further, the Guild is planning a controlled boycott. We will have the names of those we are asking to help us. When it's over, we will contact each one and ask him or her to resume buying the paper.

The saddest part of this action is that we need it. It would be great if basic fairness, common sense and the shared interest that both the union and management have in the well-being of the newspaper would be sufficient to produce a new contract.

But for whatever reason, such high motives have not been at work on the company's part. Perhaps it is hatred of unions. Perhaps it is greed.

In the end, a boycott is not something that the Guild wishes, but that the company has forced on the union. Our best hope is to make the boycott successful, shortening the time that we need it, so that we can get back to the difficult, wonderful task of putting out one of America's great newspapers.



By Mark Patinkin

I was concerned to see that our union leadership has taken steps to plan a circulation and advertising boycott. I am hoping there will be room in the Guild Leader, and the Guild's spirit, for a dissenting view.

To be direct, I feel it's a self-destructive measure, and philosophically wrong to seek to undermine a newspaper we as journalists and Journal workers hold in trust.

I realize our leadership felt reluctantly driven to this choice by the company's intransigence. It has no doubt been a maddening ordeal for those on the front lines.

I also understand the Guild sees a boycott as an act of brinkmanship, hoping the threat alone will spur the company to come to agreement.

Still, if we maneuver ourselves into a position of having to pull the trigger, then I believe management won't be the only ones burned. For us to seek to cripple the paper financially will ultimately harm ourselves.

I see two outcomes of a boycott. One, management refuses to cave, and as the months go by, we keep squeezing out the very revenues necessary for us to get the wages we want. Two, the boycott is so punitive management does cave. Fine, but how about three years from now? In this era, newspapers don't get back circulation they "temporarily" lose. The more successful this boycott, the less profitable the Journal will be in the future -- and the less able to pay.

At best, it's a win-now-lose-later strategy. At worst, lose-lose.

Yes, I understand that for us to cooperatively keep the company profitable won't guarantee us our demands, because it hasn't so far. But you can bet that a less profitable company will be offering us even worse contracts.

To me, this step would be like an underpaid ship's crew punching holes in the hull as a way of pressuring the captain to raise their wages. To stretch the comparison, you don't do that to a ship already heading toward weather, since we all know newspapers face a problematic future at best.

Although I have not been an active union member, I am nevertheless grateful to those who have spent their time trying to get us all a better contract. And admittedly, I can't offer other tactics.

But if we go forward with a boycott, I'm afraid that sadly, I can't see myself paying dues to support a strategy I believe will harm the newspaper itself, and ultimately hurt all of its workers.

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