Vol XIl, Issue 20 TNG/CWA Local 31041 March 22, 2001

NLRB postpones Guild hearings,
probes new charges against Co.

NLRB wants more time to prepare case against Journal

Guild executive board objects, but will not fight delay
Hearings set for April 2 now may be held here in June

Status report

Negotiations: The two sides last met in their 18th session Feb. 14. This week, after an exchange of letters, the union and company resolved a key dispute over wording. The company agreed to define the limits of changes it can make in medical benefits after a new contract is in place; the Guild accepted its definition. This removes a key stumbling block in bargaining. No new meetings have been scheduled.

NLRB charges: A hearing on the company's 30 violations of federal labor law scheduled to start April 2 now has been postponed by the agency, possibly until June. (See accompanying article).

Guild in the news: A Guild executive board member, Brian Jones, was interviewed on the WRNI, National Public Radio, program, One Union Station, which aired March 20. He discussed changes in the paper since its sale to Belo Corp., noting the troubled labor climate and the company's recent moves to shrink the paper. Journal officials declined to participate.

Activities: A potluck supper open to all Guild members will be held Saturday, March 31 at the home of photo editor Babette Augustin, 119 Wentworth Ave., Cranston, starting at 6 p.m. Bring food, children. The Guild will supply drinks, utensils. Call or e-mail the union if you are coming: 421-9466; png@riguild.org.

The National Labor Relations Board yesterday postponed the hearing into 30 violations of federal labor law that the government says the Providence Journal has committed against the Providence Newspaper Guild.

Board officials told the Guild that they proposed the delay to provide more time to prepare for the complex hearings.

Also, NLRB officials said they are examining fresh unfair labor practice charges brought by the Guild, and if they find sufficient evidence to support those allegations, they would like to add them to the case.

The hearings had been scheduled to begin April 2 in Providence before an administrative law judge. The NLRB said the sessions now may begin in June.

The delay came over the objections of the union's Executive Board, which felt that Guild members had waited more than a year for a hearing on the merits of the case. The company has agreed to the delay.

The Guild will not challenge the decision, knowing that the NLRB officials -- who wanted more time and legal ammunition -- are trying to win the case on the union's behalf.

One of the factors in the holdup is fresh charges of unfair labor practices brought by the Guild, which are now being probed by the labor board's Boston office.

If the investigators decide to issue complaints on the new charges, they will be added to the 30 counts already approved. But this decision won't be made until the probe is complete.

The new charges involve actions taken recently by the company:

  • The Jan. 15 and 16 threats by publisher Howard Sutton and his top aide, Mark Ryan, to reduce the company's contract offer because the Guild has filed unfair labor practices and is exploring the possibility of a readers' boycott. The Guild said its activities are protected by federal labor law.
  • The company's actual withdrawal of its offer of 3 percent raises for Year 2000.
  • The company's March 8 letter refusing to schedule further negotiating meetings.

There is no guarantee NLRB investigators will add these charges to the ones already scheduled for trial.

Dear Providence Journal…

A Journal reader with no connection to the Guild sent this to the Letters to the Editor section of the Journal. The letter-writer also e-mailed a copy to a Guild member, apparently because she feared it would never appear in print. The Guild Leader obtained her permission to publish it here.

To the Editor:

I have heard on WPRO (and from gossip in the air of journalism) that The Providence Journal refuses negotiate with the union to which most of its professional employees belong. This, despite firm raps on the ProJo knuckles by the NLRB. In addition, there is no news about any of this reported in the paper itself.

The Boston Globe, with which the Providence Journal has had an ongoing, sometimes funny and public rivalry, is also involved in a dispute with some of its employees (the free-lancers). A little over a week ago, one of the Globe staff columnists published, in his usual spot in the paper, a column severely critical of The Globe. Kudos to the Globe! Shame on the ProJo! Who is upholding the proper standards of professional journalism here? Who will comment on this? Apparently not the newspaper I used to call mine.

I've been a subscriber for about twenty years. I'm thinking of canceling my yearly subscription, as are some of my friends. We are concerned about what seems to be the corpocratic trend, the businessification of a noble profession, not by its practitioners, but by its management, based not in Rhode Island, but in Texas. Who calls the shots? Who makes the decisions?

Some time around the holidays, my Sunday delivery person told me he could not deliver my Providence Journal because, apparently, I had not paid my bill. I pay for my paper a year in advance. The delivery person is a neighbor. He gave me the Sunday paper. Others were not so fortunate. I have no idea what that was all about, and never received information, in the mail or from the newspaper itself to clarify matters.

So my impression at this point is of secretive, profit-focused, inefficient, unprofessional newspaper. Say it isn't so! Prove that. Please. I do not want to switch to The Globe….

Theresa McQuaid

But federal officials prosecuting the case say if new charges are approved, the judge will have a clearer picture of the company's overall illegal behavior.

NLRB cases are notorious for taking a long time, and the Guild's charges have been no exception.

The union filed its first round of charges Dec. 13, 1999, and has been adding to the case since, even as the company has continued to thumb its nose at the Guild -- and the laws.

In December 2000, the NLRB issued a 20-count complaint against the paper; last month, it added 10 more.

The charges say that the company illegally imposed some of its contract demands on the Guild without sufficient bargaining. Forced upon the Guild were new medical plans, loss of a paid holiday and other provisions.

The NLRB also charges that the company has tried to intimidate members from supporting the union, and has failed to supply the union with information it needs to bargain.

The hearings may take a week or more. After that, the judge will study the case and issue a decision. Either party then can appeal to the full labor board in Washington, and then to the federal appeals court and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court.


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