Vol XIl, Issue 9 TNG/CWA Local 31041 January 24, 2001

Union 'Disappointed' Too

Status report

NEGOTIATIONS: In the past two weeks, company officials rebuffed efforts to bring them back to the table. Our lawyer again approached the company's lawyer about bargaining and was told the company's stance remains unchanged. It has been 365 days since the company last made a bargaining offer.

NLRB CHARGES: A hearing on the company's 20 violations of federal labor law is scheduled to start April 2.

LISTSERV: Fifty-eight people are now members of the Guild's lively on-line discussion group. If your dues are paid in full and you have access to non-company e-mail, you can join the listserv by e-mailing Tony DePaul at tonydepaul@aol.com. Include your phone number.

UPCOMING EVENTS: Guild Follies, Feb. 23. For ticket information, contact Tracy Breton in the newsroom or call the Guild office at 421-9466.

Guild renews proposal for Journal-union open forum; counters paper's threats with new unfair labor charges

Spurning the company's harsh tone in letters both to Journal employees and to the union, the Guild today responded by renewing its proposal for a joint forum, in which company and union leaders would discuss contract negotiations.

"Although we currently disagree with you on many issues," wrote Executive Board member Brian Jones in a letter on behalf of the union panel, "we do share your stated desire to see this painful disagreement come to an end, and we are searching for constructive ways to do so. This kind of forum might help.''

However, at the same time, the Guild filed a new unfair labor practices charge with federal officials, alleging that the company's letters improperly threatened union members for exercising their rights in pursuing ways to conclude negotiations.

The union maintains that by threatening to revise its current contract offer because of the union'sfiling of unfair labor practice charges and because of its exploratory efforts about a circulation boycott, the company again had violated federal labor law.

The forum was suggested earlier this month by the Guild as a means of having the 500 members of the bargaining unit hearing directly from officials on both sides of the negotiations, which have been on going for more than a year.

Darrell M. West, the Brown University political scientist, has agreed to be a moderator if such a forum were to take place. The Guild has proposed the session be held at a neutral setting, with members allowed to ask questions of both sides.

But responding to the Guild, Mark T. Ryan, Journal senior vice president, charged that the union's leadership has not been "involved in any continuing attempt to secure a fair contract."

He said the company's offer has clearly been explained, and said the only problem is the "failure" of Guild leaders to recognize what's in workers' best interests. Further, he said the company feared the Guild would pounce on any statements made in the forum for ammunition for fresh unfair labor practice charges.

The Guild's letter stated the forum proposal came from rank-and-file members who want to hear the company's side, and that the Guild purpose was to advance understanding and hopefully, move toward bargaining resolution.

"We believe the unfair labor practice charges that we've filed in the past have been warranted, and that it's the union's obligation to defend our case,'' Jones wrote. "But we are not looking for fresh material, nor do we expect to find any at such a forum."

Ryan closed his letter with a threat: "In addition, our final offer was made almost a year ago. We are now reviewing its continued availability based on your most recent actions." In response, the Guild filed its latest unfair labor practice charge.

Ryan's threat was similar to one made by Howard G. Sutton, Journal publisher, who had castigated the Guild in a Jan. 15 letter to all Journal workers, complaining of the Guild's filing of earlier labor law charges, and of its work in preparing for a potential readers' boycott.

Sutton had complained about a letter mailed to 10,000 members of Council 94, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, (AFSCME) asking them to sign pledge cards and promising not to buy the paper if the Guild declared a boycott.

The publisher denied that the company is trying to break the union, and he accused the union of trying to "hurt every employee."

"We are reviewing our current offer in light of your leadership's most recent action,'' Sutton said. "I cannot impress on you enough how disappointed I am.''

The Guild currently is distributing pledge cards to 80,000 members of AFL-CIO affiliated unions, as well as other labor organizations.

After a sufficient number of cards are returned, the Executive Board will ask the Guild membership whether it wants to authorize a boycott. If so, the board hopes that even the possibility of a boycott will help conclude negotiations. But if that doesn't happen, the union would then consider declaring one.

As to the proposed forum, Executive board members this past Monday authorized a letter to Sutton asking him to reconsider the idea.

Board members also said the publisher had misunderstood the reasons why the Guild has had to file unfair labor practice charges and to lay foundations for a potential reader boycott.

"The Guild has made numerous efforts to conclude negotiations, revising its contract proposal twice and making off-the-record attempts at settlement,'' commented Tim Schick, Guild administrator. "But it's been rebuffed repeatedly and forced by the company to take legal and tactical steps.''

John Hill, secretary of the union, said that it seems that the only thing that the company agrees with the Guild is its expression of "disappointment."
Said Hill: "We're disappointed, too."

The Guild presents an award to a member of the Rhode Island community during the annual Follies, in honor of the great Journal reporter and union vice president, who died of cancer in 1987. Please nominate a person whose good works are accomplished with modesty and humor. Submit names to Bob Chiappinelli, ext. 8068; Peter Lord, 8036; and Karen Ziner, 7375

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