Vol XIl, Issue 44 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Oct. 2, 2001


Citing the tragedy of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Guild has reached out to The Providence Journal and the Belo parent company in a proposal that the two sides resume negotiations.

In a letter to Robert W. Decherd, Belo chairman, the Guild wrote that the tragedy underscores the futility of long disputes, and noted Decherd's own calls, in letters to employees, for unity within Belo Corp.

"We are prepared to return to the bargaining table," said the letter, approved yesterday by the Executive Committee. "We are prepared to modify our proposals and bargain in good faith. All we ask is for you to do the same.""The past two years have been bitter, and have hurt all of us within the Journal family. To continue the battle will add only to this pain. Finally, to perpetuate our disagreement will be a profane rejection of the lessons of Sept. 11."

Executive board members noted that this letter is being sent at the same time as the union is preparing to ask its members to authorize a consumer boycott against the newspaper.

Several members said that while that might seem contradictory, the union is prepared to wage peace, even as it prepares to wage war.

The boycott proposal is being brought forward only after two years of thus-far unsuccessful negotiations, and is being done so reluctantly, board members said.

  • Secret ballot vote Oct. 23-24
  • Approval will allow EB to call boycott in future
  • Full debate anticipated
  • Union has collected thousands of boycott pledges
  • The Guild has scheduled a membership vote Oct. 23 & 24 to authorize a consumer boycott of the Providence Journal.

    If approved, the secret ballot referendum would authorize the 11-member executive board to declare a circulation boycott of The Providence Journal at a time of the board's choosing.

    Preceding the vote will be several weeks of discussion.

    The Guild will arrange meetings of work place groups and news bureaus to talk about the proposal.

    And the quarterly membership meeting, Oct. 22, will have discussion of the measure the day before the voting begins.

    The Guild has been preparing for a possible boycott as an alternative to a strike for a year.

    Union leaders believe a customer boycott of the paper would place heavy economic pressure on the company, but without allowing the paper to attempt to replace workers who had walked off the job.

    But the union leadership is recommending this step reluctantly, in an attempt to bring negotiations for a new contract -- underway now almost for two years -- to a fair conclusion.

    The company has refused to move off its "final offer,'' which the Guild membership rejected in early 2000, even though the Guild has made substantial concessions in bargaining.

    One sign of how poorly the company has behaved in negotiations is that the federal government has issued 47 counts of violation of labor law, including refusal to negotiate with the Guild since last Valentine's Day. (See accompanying story).

    Scheduling of the vote by the Executive Committee follows more than a year of preparation by the union, including collection of thousands of pledge cards from subscribers and other customers of the newspaper.

    Card signers say they will support a boycott if one is called by the union. Home delivery customers authorize the union to cancel their subscriptions, and others promise not to buy the paper at stores.

    During this preliminary phase, the Guild has worked with other unions in the Rhode Island AFL-CIO to distribute and collect pledge cards, believing that members of other unions would most readily understand the issues.

    IF THE BOYCOTT IS AUTHORIZED, the Guild will seek support for the move to other elements of the community, such as church, social-justice, fraternal and other groups, while continuing to ask support of the 80,000-member union movement.

    Here's how the vote will be conducted:

    Secret paper ballots can be cast at the Guild office, 270 Westminster St., Providence from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 23. The following day, Wednesday, Oct. 244, votes can be cast from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.

    In addition, Guild members who know in advance they will not be able to vote in person may request absentee ballots.

    One of the company's tactics to hurt the Guild financially has been to stop collecting union dues through payroll deduction. As a result, the Guild has been billing members directly or by credit card.

    While most Guild members are paying their dues voluntarily, some are behind in their payments.

    The Guild's bylaws require members to have paid dues in full within the past 30 days in order to vote. Dues may be paid in the usual way, and at the door of the union office on the days of the vote.


    The National Labor Relations Board has issued 11 new counts of unfair labor practices against The Providence Journal, including lowering its wage offer to The Guild.

    Also, the NLRB has set a date for a hearing on these and previous charges for Feb. 25, 2002. Two weeks of testimony and hearings in Providence are planned.

    The new charges were expected. The NLRB's regional office in Boston had indicated that it was planning to issue the counts, which bring to 47 the number of unfair labor practices pending against The Journal.

    Among this new charges are two related to one of the company's most serious moves against the Guild, it's lowering of it wage offer as punishment for the union looking into a possible consumer boycott against the newspaper.

    Initially, regional officials had declined to issues

    charges on the company's removal of a 3 percent wage hike for the year 2000. But the Guild appealed, and the NLRB reversed course.

    The government said that a Guild had a right to consider a boycott, and that the company illegally worsened the offer that it had on the table in retaliation.

    "About Jan. 15, 2001, respondent, by Howard G. Sutton, threatened its Advertising and News Unit employees that it would make a regressive proposal in collective bargaining because its employees engaged in protected concerted activities, i.e., a consumer boycott," the complaint reads.

    Among the other charges:

    That the company short-changed sports editors by calling them in early for a meeting, then didn't pay them full overtime; sought to bypass the union in dealing with a Guild member; forced porters to take over houseplant care without bargaining with the Guild; and removed a security guard from the lobby of The Journal Building.

    "It is unfortunate that The Journal's lawless behavior has made necessary the issuance of these new charges," said Tim Schick, Guild administrator.

    "This goes to show that the Journal is continuing its practice of disregarding its obligations under federal labor law," Schick said.

    The entire complaint will be posted on the Guild's website: www.riguild.org.

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