At last, some good news: Money should be coming our way.
Guild officials believe
that the conclusion of an arbitration case should result in a payout soon;
and also, that bargaining unit members are due the same annual bonus that
other Journal workers expect.
In mid- to late February,
an arbitrator is expected to decide how much the company owes us in the
"me, too" case.
That's the successful
complaint the Guild filed over the company's failure in January 1999 to
give Guild members a wage increase that reflects a pay increase that other
workers received, plus a boost required under the Guild's Gainsharing
An arbitrator ruled last year that the company owes Guild members an extra 1.02 percent retroactive to January 1, 1999. In addition, base pay must go up 1.02 percent. Without interest, the back pay for an employee making $45,000 a year would be about $900.
Based on the legal
arguments filed in the case, it appears the company is finally acknowledging
that it owes us money. The key sticking points now are whether they owe
us interest and lost earning investment income on the 401k.
(You can expect the
company to say it will reduce any new negotiated wage increases by what
the arbitrator is ordering them to pay. The company could also challenge
the decision in court. They won't win, but such a move would serve to
delay any payout.)
The other piece of
good news is that this year, we are due the same Belo bonus that other
Journal employees are to get.
It is the one of the few good changes the company imposed last year after it refused to extend the contract.
Although the company imposed mostly the onerous portions of its new contract proposals - taking away a holiday and forcing inferior medical plans - it did institute its bonus plan, which the Guild had tentatively agreed to in bargaining.
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
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
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
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
"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.''
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495