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|Vol XI, No. 67
||TNG/CWA Local 31041
||October 18, 2000
OUR OWN WORDS
just a fight for this year, it is a fight for the next decade'
By John Hill
I agree with
Mark Patinkin that a circulation boycott is a serious, and possibly
hurtful, step for us to take. But I see no other choice.
I think he missed the point of the boycott plan, though.
The objective is not to make people cancel, but to make them renew,
after we have a deal we can live with. We want to show the company
that we not only represent the power to punish, but the power to
As an officer
of the Guild, I can promise you that if we get a good contract,
and it comes time to get those subscribers back, our union will
work as hard or harder than we did to get them to cancel in the
first place. Because if we can do that this year, the simple threat
of it happening again may give us bargaining leverage for years
to come. This is not just a fight for this year, it is a fight for
the next decade.
For a year now, we have tried negotiating. Our proposals have been
fair and reasonable. The Journal has responded with illegal actions.
It took away a personal day. Those with three to five years here
lost a vacation week and we all got an inferior health care plan.
I do care about how this company does. I just wish the people who
own it cared about me. I don't know how many little handouts we've
gotten from Belo, describing some happy-family outfit I don't recognize.
Whenever I get one, the hypocrisy is so huge it makes me want to
We are supposed
to worry about hurting these people financially? They have no regrets
about hurting us. I have friends who are paying hundreds of dollars
more a month for prescriptions, people who have run out of dental
coverage and are hoping that a cracked crown holds until January
1, when they start a new coverage year.
All of this while the company is millions -- millions -- of dollars
ahead of the profit pace it has set for this year.
I am tired of
caring more about the quality of this newspaper than the people
who own it. I am tired of the unctuous `Dear Fellow Employee' letters
from people who rarely even walk though the newsroom let alone try
to understand what it is we do for this company.
in this business because they care about contributing to democracy,
or about making this state a better place to live in. They just
want to make money. If making them make less money is the only way
they will value us, so be it.
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 email@example.com.
Belo boasts of Journal's revenues but skips over labor, sales troubles
to fall at The Providence Journal, even as A.H. Belo Corp. boasts about
the newspaper's "revenue growth."
Annual reports of
the newspaper's sales published recently indicate that circulation has
fallen nearly 3 percent in the past year for the daily paper and more
than 2 percent for the Sunday Journal.
may be too generous, because the newspaper continues to be tightlipped
about the sorry aspects of its own business.
The paper published
this year's figures in table form - but without an accompanying news story
to indicate any trends.
Guild analysis of 1999 figures published last year with this year's
tallies indicates an alarming decline. Here's what our reading shows:
This is a disturbing
development, given that Rhode Island is enjoying unprecedented prosperity,
and comes during a period in which many newspapers are at last gaining in
The daily Journal's average circulation declined 4,719 between Sept.
22, 1999 and Sept. 28, 2000. That means circulation (total paid
and requested) is now 161,029.
The Sunday paper, responsible for a huge
share of the paper's income, slid 5,443 in the same period, to a
new level of 232,357. Since 1997, when Belo took over, daily circulation
has slipped nearly 5 percent, Sunday more than 4.5 percent.
It's logical to believe
that part of this slide is due to the terrible mess that management made
out of delivery service at the beginning of the year when the paper reportedly
switched to a new computer system and was slow to deal with the resulting
It's the same management
that is bent on breaking the Guild and which has unnecessarily stretched
You won't, of course,
get discussion of this in the news pages of the Journal itself. And internal
communications from A. H. Belo to its employees feign candor and concentrate
on the rosy side of the business.
"In publishing, The
Dallas Morning News, The Providence Journal and The Press-Enterprise have
all experienced growth this year at the high end of
all newspaper companies," wrote Robert W. Decherd in a Sept. 5, 2000
bulletin to workers.
No mention here of
the company's hard-hearted tactics in contract negotiations. Nor of rumors
circulating about budget worries because of rising newsprint prices and
possible decisions to not fill some vacancies.
states that Belo attempts to raise stock prices might be paying off. Coming
back from a $12.31 per share price earlier in the year, Decherd noted
that at the time of his bulletin, the price was over $19. (It was down
to about $17.56 this week).
The chairman went
so far as to note that "as the stock appreciates in value, the company
and its shareholders, who include 80 percent of Belo's employees through
the 401k plan, will ultimately benefit."
Interesting that he
didn't note that one of the major contract disputes is Belo's and the
Journal's refusal to offer Guild members what other Journal workers enjoy:
a chance to move into the Belo 401k.
Must have slipped
his mind. Just like he forgot to mention the circulation slide.
Copyright © 2000 The Providence
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495