Federal Court Orders Arbitration of Dues Case
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.
Guild has hand-collected dues, sending out monthly bills and permitting
credit-card payments. The national union -- The Newspaper Guild/
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.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495