6 New Unfair Charges Lodged Against Journal
The federal government has added six new counts to its complaint that the Providence Journal has broken the law in its negotiations with the Guild. The total is now 36.
Among the new complaints:
The company's refusal to go the bargaining table with the Guild since the last negotiating session on Valentine's Day.
"Since about Feb. 14, 2001, Respondent by (Thomas) McDonough has failed and refused to bargain for succeeding collective bargaining agreements for the News Unit and the Advertising Unit with the union ," the May 23 complaint said.
The Boston office of the National Labor Relations Board also said the company wrongly changed standards by which leave is granted workers who need to take time off for union business, and it has refused to supply information the union needs for bargaining.
The new counts will be added to the 30 that already had been scheduled for a hearing before an administrative law judge in Providence on June 25.
The NLRB declined to issue charges as requested by the Guild after the company reduced its wage offer - removing year 2000 wage increases - in retaliation against the union's filing of unfair labor practice charges and preparations for a possible readers' boycott of the paper.
Tim Schick, the Guild administrator, said that the union will appeal the decision to the Washington office. In the past, when the Boston office has declined to issue complaints on proposed unfair labor practices, the union has simply withdrawn its charges.
But in this case, the union feels the matter is important enough -- that the company unfairly retaliated against the union because the Guild was seeking to enforce its legal rights and was laying the groundwork for possible action - to warrant an appeal.
This is the third time that the NLRB has issued a round of complaints against the company, saying that it has violated the National Labor Relations Act during negotiations for a new contract that began Oct. 28, 1999.
The charges range from the company's illegal imposing contract changes - such as imposing new and inferior medical plans, and taking away a paid holiday - to trying to intimidate a worker for union activity and withholding a range of information the union needs to effectively negotiate.
The complaints are akin to an indictment against the company. The government will prosecute the case on the Guild's behalf at the June hearing.
The case is expected to take two weeks, with the second week scheduled for mid July.
The last negotiations between the Guild and the company took place Feb. 14, when the union made minor changes in its proposal, in a pump-priming effort to get the talks moving.
Following the meeting, in an exchange of letters, the union and the company agreed on key language on one aspect of the medical insurance issue. But since then, the company has refused to meet with the Guild.
In March, McDonough, the company's human resources manager, said the company saw no reason to schedule new meetings unless the Guild moved closer to company positions.
Schick noted that the Guild has modified its proposal several times, but the company hasn't changed its stance even though the union's membership voted down the newspaper's latest offer Feb. 2 and 3, 2000 with a 354-to-28 vote.
The NLRB's new charge is significant in that it backs up the Guild's contention that the company is refusing to negotiate.
Among the other new counts:
Since last year, the Guild has been laying groundwork for a possible circulation boycott, one way of placing economic pressure on the company.
Early this year, the company complained about the boycott effort and threatened to retreat on its contract offer. Then, in February, it took its offer of a 3 percent wage hike for 2000 off the table.
The NLRB, in declining to issue a complaint, said the company's move "was deemed to be a legitimate economic counter-action to the union's threat of a consumer boycott."
But the Guild will appeal that decision, saying the company's wage reduction move was an illegal retaliation against both its filing of earlier unfair labor practice charges and its right to engage in lawful tactics.
At the same time, the changed wage offer becomes one more issue to be negotiated by the Guild in reaching a fair contract.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495