Vol XIl, Issue 12 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Feb. 5, 2001


· Says reduced wage offer widens contract gap and forces
union to continue boycott preparation.
· Calls for continued negotiations; suggests steps that could
help settlement and make boycott plans unnecessary.

QUESTION: What is the Guild's view of the letters distributed to workers Feb. 2?
ANSWER: By proposing to eliminate any 2000 wage increase, the company has widened, rather than narrowed, the gap between the two sides in negotiations. Preparations for a readers' boycott obviously have rattled company executives. The union is disappointed that company responded by making a retrogressive contract proposal.

Q: What is the union's response?
After meeting Sunday, Feb. 4, the executive board instructed Tim Schick, the Guild administrator, to send a letter to Howard Sutton, Journal publisher, challenging the company's assertions that it is not out to bust the Guild. The union explained that boycott preparations have been forced by the company, and that it would not need them if the company were dealing with the union in good faith.

At the same time, the Guild said it is interested in a settlement. It outlined steps the company could take to show good faith: stop fighting the processing and arbitration of grievances; provide information the Guild has requested to help negotiate pension and other issues; roll back the changes the company made last year in contract working conditions, such as imposing inferior medical plans; and improve its contract proposal from that of last January. (The text of the union letter is here).

Q: Will Guild members lose the 3 percent wage hike that other employees received last year?
Wage increases are the subject of negotiations, and the Guild remains committed to winning fully retroactive wages. Guild bargaining unit members worked hard to make the newspaper profitable last year, and there is no reason for them not to be fairly compensated. Retroactive (back) pay was the cause of the Guild's 1973 strike, and the company's threat to withhold it this time is simply another bullying tactic.

Q: Will there be more negotiations?
We hope so. Both sides have offered to return to the table, and Schick is contacting federal mediator Paul Chabot to ask him to arrange a meeting.

Q: Can the company legally reduce its offer?
In this case, we don't believe so. We filed an unfair labor practices charge with the federal government after the company threatened to reduce its offer, saying that threat was made because the union had filed previous labor charges and was making plans for a possible boycott, both of which are activities protected by the law. We and national Guild officials are researching the legal issues further.

Q: The letter from Mark Ryan, senior vice president, said "no one can measure the damage already done in the marketplace by your leaders' misinformation campaign." What is the union's response?
The company is disingenuous to suggest there has been 'damage' from a boycott that has not begun. It is only in the planning stages and hasn't even been approved by Guild members. There has been no 'misinformation campaign.' The Guild since last fall has been working with other labor unions to distribute pledge cards where people promise not to buy the paper if the Guild calls a boycott. But the Guild has made clear there has been no boycott yet. It's possible that Journal circulation is continuing to fall, and that local managers are hoping to shift blame from themselves.

Q. Ryan said that the Guild is urging readers to get news from TV and radio, not the Journal. Is that true?
No. The Guild is telling pledge card signers that if there ever is a boycott, they can still get news. One of the places the Guild is suggesting they would look is the Journal Website, projo.com, which we point out is prepared by Guild members and contains stories from the paper. We also say our own site will have news. And we note there are other sources, including the Phoenix weekly; National Public Radio and other broadcast outlets. But nobody is currently being asked to use alternate media.

Q. If the company is so worried by our boycott preparations, why do we continue with them?
Sadly, the company seems only to respond to economic pressure, rather than reasonable discussion of issues. We hope a boycott won't be necessary, but the company's inappropriate step of reducing its offer just reinforces our belief that we may eventually have to ask union members to vote whether to authorize one.

Q. What is the "alternative final proposal'' that Tom McDonough, human resources director, alluded to, that would provide 2 percent yearly wage hikes if "litigation'' stopped, as opposed to 3 percent if we continued litigation?
The company proposed that lesser wage hike as part of its "final offer" Jan. 20, 2000. The negotiating committee did not consider it viable, since it did not believe that Guild members should be forced to shave 1 percentage point off the 3 percent wage hike that other Journal workers were receiving, for the "privilege" of dropping valid grievances and unfair labor practice charges that were filed in response to the company's violations of the contract and the law.

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