Vol XI, No. 72 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Nov. 20, 2000



• Internet video is union work, Guild tells company
• Managers halt on-line tasks, threaten to hire outsiders

In a sharply-worded letter, the Guild has told the company that video and sound work for the on-line service projo.com should be done only by union members, and has demanded that the company cease its threats to turn over the jobs to outsiders.

Recent statements by newspaper managers that they plan to outsource video work to non-Journal workers are "retaliation" against the Guild for the union asserting its rights to the jobs, the union said.

"The Guild demands that the company cease and desist from removing this work from the bargaining unit or otherwise assigning it to anyone outside the bargaining unit," Tim Schick, Guild administrator wrote in a Nov. 15 letter.

Schick’s letter, to Tom McDonough, the Journal’s human resources director, was the latest volley in a new fight that has broken out between the union and the company about the development of the paper’s Internet service, projo.com.

The new problems started as the company began having Guild reporters, photographers and artists produce video and sound packages for projo.com.

Such packages have run on-line in conjunction with front-page series and with the real estate section’s house-of-the-week feature.

Last month, Schick wrote to the company that the union has always welcomed new technological processes. But he noted that the union is concerned that the company hasn’t been providing training for the new jobs. Schick said that the Guild reserves the right to raise added concerns about the work and that the contract requires notification about new processes.

This mild reminder was followed by the announcement that Guild workers would no longer do video and sound work and that the company had decided to farm out the work to outsiders.

McDonough wrote to the Guild Nov. 9 denying that the company had introduced any new processes or even that it had asked news department workers to assume new duties:

"What has happened is that certain employees in the news department have advised management of their desire to work with sound or video. These individuals have made recordings or videos voluntarily that they have offered to the company for inclusion on the Web. Sound and/or video work is not within the jurisdiction of the Providence Newspaper Guild."

McDonough’s statements are in error.

The company has made numerous assignments to staffers to do sound and video work, and has supplied special cameras and recorders. This has been done in a low-key way, so much that Guild members wondered why there hasn’t been better training.

McDonough’s statement that the work isn’t within Guild jurisdiction seems to fit the pattern the company has set in its approach to contract negotiations that have been going on for more than a year – that the newspaper’s real intent is to eliminate the union.

Guild members who want to give to charity this year, but who don’t want to participate in the company’s campaign, can now donate to the United Way of Southeastern New England through a Guild-sponsored campaign.

The Guild last week completed arrangements with United Way to provide donor forms, which the Guild will distribute both in person and through the mail. For the first time, the Guild will receive recognition for its members’ donations.

The fund-raising campaign was organized after Guild members voted not to participate in the Journal’s United Way fund-raiser to protest the company’s assault on our union.

That decision originated, not with the leadership, but with a spontaneous motion from a member. It was overwhelmingly approved. At a time when the company has declared war on us, when we haven’t seen a raise in nearly two years despite soaring profits, we simply don’t want the Journal using our generosity to polish its phony image.

But members were concerned that the United Way and its worthy member agencies would suffer because of our conflict with the Journal. So we decided to set up a method by which members would be encouraged to give through the Guild.

The United Way was initially reluctant to help us with this. (Journal publisher Howard Sutton is a member of their board.) But after the leadership of the state’s AFL-CIO intervened, the United Way met with us last Thursday to work out a plan.

The AFL-CIO’s assistance is a reminder that we are not alone in our struggle and can count on this powerful organization as we move ahead.

We were also pleased to learn that the United Way has a longstanding partnership with the AFL-CIO in which organized labor has a role in decision-making and the United Way assists out-of-work, retired and needy union members.

If you have already returned the company’s United Way form, please ask for it back. You have the absolute right to cancel that donation at any time. Year after year, the company brass get honors and awards for the success of such charitable efforts, when it’s our money that’s making them look good.

Guild members are, of course, free to donate however they please. The vote specifically left it open for them to give on their own, or to donate through the Guild.

Members can continue giving through the company. But a good showing in a Guild-run campaign will make it clear how significant our contributions have been. And if successful, the Guild’s United Way campaign may continue in future years.

The United Way will accept your contributions in three ways: it will bill you regularly; it will accept lump-sum donations; and it will collect through credit card deductions.

At a luncheon honoring his so-called "leadership" qualities, ProJo publisher Howard Sutton kept a wall of security personnel between him and a group of his own Providence Journal employees.

Thursday, Leadership Rhode Island, a statewide education group, gathered at the Johnson & Wales Inn on Route 44 in Seekonk, Mass. to give Sutton its David E. Sweet Leadership Award.

About 10 Journal employees gathered in the parking lot to hand out leaflets, which questioned the wisdom of honoring someone who has shown himself to be a union-buster.

It noted the company’s refusal to negotiate a pay increase, the cut in worker pay by taking away a paid holiday and the imposition of an inferior medical plan.

In addition, the company has illegally halted dues collection in a failed attempt to bankrupt the union.

Sutton ducked into the Johnson and Wales building before Guild members arrived. And when they did, they were met by three or four Johnson & Wales security people, backed by a Seekonk police officer.

The workers were questioned as to their intentions, and when they responded that they were there to educate the people gathering as to Sutton's true nature, they were told that they had to get off the property. 

The Guild members moved to the shoulder of Route 44 at the Inn's entrance and unfurled their banner, "PRO JO - PROFIT OVER PEOPLE." They also handed out leaflets to people in cars arriving for the luncheon.

Shortly thereafter, several more cars of Seekonk police arrived and cautioned Guild members to not block motorists' view of traffic. The banner was moved back and the leaflets, citing Sutton's union busting activities, his Scrooge-like treatment of workers and his paper’s union-news censorship, were still distributed.

For the full text of the "This Is Leadership?" leaflet, see the Guild's Web site: www.riguild.org/leadership.htm.

Join the Guild’s e-mail discussion forum

The Guild has set up a way for members to have an on-going discussion on the Internet.

It’s a “listserv’’ that allows us to talk about union issues by exchanging e-mail that can be read by all participating union members – and by no one else.

It was set up as journalboycott@egroups.com to allow those of us involved in planning the Journal boycott to communicate among ourselves. But we welcome the involvement of all Guild members who want to resist Belo's campaign to break our union.

When somebody sends an e-mail, everyone sees it. Those who wish to chime in send a reply, and that’s seen by the whole group as well. It’s great for people who work in different departments, shifts and offices.

The listserv is unmoderated. That means no one will censor you or screen your e-mail in any way before it's sent to all members of the group.

All you need is a private, after-hours account with an Internet provider, because we are not subscribing members with projo.com addresses.

You can join the list simply to read what is being said, and keep yourself informed. But we'd much rather have you jump in with your ideas and comments whenever you see a thread that interests you.

One caution: even though this is a closed network, assume that anything you say can get out to the public or back to the company. Nothing done on a computer is ever truly private: printouts can be made, messages can be copied and forwarded.

Incidentally, the boycott listserv is turning out to be a great venue for discussing other issues at the Journal, and journalism in general. We welcome anyone who has given up on CRITQ, a management-sponsored "forum" that reeks of the company's top-down view of the world.

Once we have a new contract, we may want to keep the listserv on-line as a place to discuss our craft and our newspaper. We could open it to community leaders, college journalism professors, applicants for internships and permanent jobs, and broadcast reporters who want to cover the Journal.

If you want access to the listserv, just send a quick note from your home e-mail address to tonydepaul@aol.com.

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