Vol XIl, Issue 43 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Sept. 21, 2001

Federal Court Orders Arbitration of Dues Case

NLRB set to issue new charges against Journal
February hearing date eyed

The Guild has been notified that the National Labor Relation Board has authorized about a dozen new unfair labor practice charges against the Journal, including two related to the withdrawal of a proposed wage increase for the year 2000.

The new charges mean the Journal will be accused of about 50 violations of U.S. labor law.

But, not all the news from the NLRB has been positive. The Guild has also been notified that the NLRB hearing currently set for October will be postponed. A February hearing date is now being discussed.

The delay is the result of the medical condition of the NLRB attorney scheduled to prosecute the Journal. The Guild objected to the postponement, asking that a new attorney be assigned, but the request was denied.

The hearing date and the precise wording of the new charges may not be known until the end of the month, when a revised "complaint" is issued. A complaint is the formal statement of the charges, similar to an indictment.

The biggest of the new charges deals with the Journal withdrawal of a proposed 3 percent wage increase for the year 2000. This amounted to illegal retrogressive bargaining, according to the NLRB.

Other issues to be contained in the charges include:

  • The refusal to bargain and unilateral imposition of a requirement that porters be required to water and care for plants. (Journal managers attempted to ridicule the Guild for raising this issue.)

  • The Company's refusal to pay overtime to Sports Department employees who were required to attend a meeting outside of their scheduled hours.

  • The Company's refusal to apply the terms of the contract to employees working in Guild jobs on a temporary basis.

  • The Company's refusal to recognize the Guild as the bargaining representative for employees working in Guild jobs on a temporary basis.

  • The Company's refusal to allow a reporter union assistance in resolving a dispute over her working conditions.

  • The refusal to negotiate over changes in a reporter's working conditions that were necessary because of a medical disability.

  • The unilateral restriction of a reporter with a medical disability to assignments in Providence.

  • The unilateral discontinuation of posting security guards in the Journal's lobby.

  • The unilateral discontinuation of small-grid payments to news department employees.

  • The unilateral modification of the Chips Quinn intern program.

Judge also rules contract clause requiring dues payments is still in effect

U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi has ordered arbitration of a grievance over the newspaper's cancellation of payroll dues collection, and company claims that dues payment are now optional.

The decision deals a blow to the Journal's attempts to financially strangle the Guild. In February 2000, the Journal stopped payroll deduction of dues and began a campaign of expensive litigation, including this lawsuit.

The Guild has hand-collected dues, sending out monthly bills and permitting credit-card payments. The national union -- The Newspaper Guild/
Communications Workers of America -- is picking up all the local's legal bills.

The company claimed that dues checkoff, union security and arbitration all expired with the contract.

Dues checkoff is the provision permitting payroll deduction of union dues. Union security is the provision that requires employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

The Guild pointed to a 1977 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that a grievance is arbitrable even when it arises after the termination of the contract, as long as the grievance was based on a right that arguably accrued prior to contract termination.

Judge Lisi agreed with the Guild, stating:

"The language of this (contract) section explicitly provides that a dues checkoff authorization will survive the expiration of the Contract unless revoked by the employee."

The Judge also said:

"This court finds that, by express contract language, the parties extended the operative term of the union security provision beyond the expiration of the Contracts and through the expiration of successor agreements which have yet to be negotiated and executed by the parties."

The next step for the Guild is to proceed with the arbitration hearing, where an arbitrator will be asked to decide if the company's actions violated the contract and determine the nature of the remedy.

The company has the right to appeal Judge Lisi's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston.

Another case, involving an arbitrator's decision that the company improperly denied parking to employees is currently pending before the Court of Appeals.

These unusual lawsuits also belie the company's professed aversion to fighting things out in court.

In his March 7, 2000 letter to union members, Mark T. Ryan, a company senior vice president, stated that the company had proposed settling grievances because "we prefer to negotiate rather than litigate."

But the company is abusing the legal process.

It violated the contract when it cut off dues and denied parking, but when it lost the parking case it ran to a judge. And, when challenged on the checkoff termination, it again ran to a judge -- in an unsuccessful attempt to prevent resolution of the dispute.

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