Vol XI, No. 66 TNG/CWA Local 31041 October 16, 2000


'Boycott will
allow us
to respond

By Tony De Paul

West Bay News Bureau, Oct. 8

I support an advertising and circulation boycott of The Journal, not because I think it's a good thing, or that it's going to be pleasant, or easy.

It's going to be ugly as hell.

But I support a boycott because it's the only avenue left open to us.

We did not deal ourselves this hand. The bullies in charge dealt it by refusing to negotiate. Any financial damage done to The Journal will be their responsibility, not ours.

Of course, what they really want is for us to strike. They could probably continue to publish, and probably replace us permanently. I have to say, my instinct is to strike.

Morally, we have ample reason to strike. But I think it would be foolish to take the bait.

A boycott will enable us to respond to the company's provocations, and respond effectively, while staying inside.

This task ahead will determine whether we are a union in fact or in name only. We're either willing to protect our interests or we aren't.

Soon, we'll know.

If we don't have the stomach for fighting back with real effect, that is, for denying the company some of the profits that we normally produce, then I suggest we take the offer that's on the table, vote to decertify the Guild, and agree to live under the company's thumb without complaint.

Some of my friends who don't want to fight back are raising valid concerns about a boycott causing permanent damage to the newspaper. Of course, no one in the Guild wants to hurt The Journal. To the contrary, we do an often-excellent job at a time when management has made it nearly impossible to do an adequate job.

But I think you have to harden your heart if you mean to play this game that the company is pitching. That starts with realizing that The Journal is not a social service agency, and it's not a priesthood.

More than ever, The Journal is a business. Indeed, we find ourselves in this position precisely because the paper has behaved as any mere business might.

Finally, I think that in this unhappy task of bleeding the company for, say, 10,000 subscribers over the next 10 weeks, we have this cold comfort: that unless the newspaper changes course we are almost certainly going to lose those readers anyway.

Management has spent a decade leading the franchise downhill by 2 to 3 percent a year. The paper is fundamentally on the wrong track. Everyone knows it. I remember when we used to worry about sales of the daily paper falling below 200,000; today the slow bleed has us in the 150s and still -- still! -- no one in authority has a plan for reinventing the amazing vanishing newspaper.

Management has us aping TV on Page One and shoveling tons of low-grade ore into the inside pages. It has not worked. It will never work. Still, our marching orders stand: Do more of what doesn't work.

I want to believe that this boycott could make The Journal a better paper in the long run, simply by bringing on the kind of immediate crisis that might finally get some constructive attention focused on the circulation decline.

It's time for the Guild to lead, and to claim a greater role in shaping our livelihoods. That starts with doing whatever it takes to get a fair contract. Only then do we have even a small hope of getting this troubled enterprise, with all its misspent energies and wasted talents and titanic egos, focused on our common self-interest: the need to build and sell a better newspaper.

The Guild Leader encourages members to express their views in the union newsletter. Letters will be published if they are from members who are in good standing. To submit letters, contact Brian Jones in the newsroom, 7360; at home, 847-0307; and by email at brijudy@ids.net.

Publisher encounters union leafleters at Westin event, insists that he won't "negotiate in a driveway''

Guild members handed out leaflets to hundreds of people during last Friday's dinner honoring Howard Sutton, including the guest of honor himself and a pair of bemused Providence policemen summoned by nervous security men.

The Volunteer Center of Rhode Island, at its annual Fall Fling at the Westin Hotel, was feting Sutton, the Journal publisher, for his role in promoting volunteerism. The Guild's fliers, distributed on the street corner outside the hotel, told attendees "the rest of the story" about a company whose treatment of unionized employees "is far from humanitarian."

Guild members also displayed a banner proclaiming, "ProJo: Profits over People,'' easily visible to rush-hour motorists on Sabin and West Exchange Streets.

When Sutton and his wife pulled into the Westin driveway in their SUV, Claire LaRue, a former executive board member, approached the driver's side window and asked Sutton to take a flier. He did, and according to LaRue, he pointed to the hand-lettered, cloth banner and remarked, "You must have spent a lot of money on that sign.'' LaRue replied, "None of us have a lot of money right now."

Sutton commented that the weather was nicer than at a State House event that the Guild had leafleted earlier this year. LaRue said she told him:

"We're out there no matter what. We'll do whatever it takes to get a fair contract."

Sutton then greeted Guild president Bob Jagolinzer, who approached the SUV. Jagolinzer said he told Sutton that he believed the Guild and the company were not "that far apart" on a contract. Sutton replied that he didn't want to "negotiate in a driveway," according to Jagolinzer. He also said, "The offer is there."

"That's the offer our people have rejected," Jagolinzer said he told the publisher.

Sutton then shrugged, said "Good evening," and drove up to give his car to the valets.

Numerous Guild members participated in the leafleting, which lasted for two hours. Initially, they unfurled the banner and positioned themselves directly in front of the hotel entrance, but hotel personnel asked them to move to the sidewalk at the end of the driveway. Everyone did so without protest.

Later, however, a Guild member reminded a hotel employee that taxpayers had paid for the hotel's construction, and asked how a publicly financed facility could ban a public protest from its sidewalk. The hotel did not relent, and the Guild member returned to the street without incident.Nevertheless, the hotel called the police, and two cruisers' flashing lights drew more attention to the Guild's protest.

The two policemen eagerly accepted the Guild's leaflets and asked the Guild members to continue to stay away from the hotel entrance. Everyone agreed to do so.

Guild members gave leaflets to people in cars waiting in line for the valets and also distributed leaflets to people walking in from the garage. Virtually everyone accepted the leaflets and read them.


Following through on the instructions of the membership meeting Oct. 10, the Guild is writing to the United Way of Southeastern New England, telling its officials that the union is recommending members give through the Guild or individually.

The letter will explain that union members resent the company's request to contribute as part of its corporate campaign, when management is out to destroy the union. But it will also say that the Guild wholeheartedly supports the goals of the United Way. A similar letter will be sent to the AFL-CIO.

The union is setting up the machinery for members to donate through the Guild. Members who have already filed company forms can ask for them back.

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