Hearing to Begin Feb. 25
Guild Readies for NLRB Trial
The quarterly membership meeting of the Providence Newspaper Guild Jan. 23 was told that the National Labor Relations Board has set a Feb. 25 start date for its prosecution of the Providence Journal Co. on 47 charges of violations of federal labor law in its handling of contract negotiations with the Guild.
Guild administrator Tim Schick said, "We are on track for the hearings to begin."
The trial sessions will be held in the Pawtucket City Council chambers, 137 Roosevelt Ave, 3rd floor. The first day of hearings is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. They are expected to run for two weeks and are open to the public.
The Guild is encouraging members to attend, for their own information and as a show of support. Executive board member Felice Freyer is taking time off to cover the sessions for the Guild and her reports will appear in the Guild's special Web site, www.journalontrial.org.
The federal government is prosecuting the case and its lawyer has promised "to fight tooth and nail" against any attempt to delay. The national Newspaper Guild has assigned a sector representative to assist, and the Guild's local attorney, David Wanger, will also be present. Schick said, "We are pulling out all the stops to win."
As Schick pointed out, the company can appeal any decision to the circuit court and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court, but such a route depends "on the stomach the company has for constant litigation." John Hill, Guild secretary and presiding officer at the meeting, added, "It's more in their interest to settle."
Much of the discussion at Wednesday's meeting focused on the status of the contract talks and the nature of our legal status with the company.
Schick explained that even though we do not have a new contract, we still have the protections of the old one. The company has -- illegally, the Guild and the NLRB believe -- imposed changes in health insurance, dental coverage, vacations and other areas.
Despite that unlawful imposition, the old contract and its protections remain in effect. Members' rights under it are clear and legal and the Guild is ready to act to enforce them.
Under federal labor law, however, we have limited access to arbitration because we are working without a new agreement. Therefore, most violations of the contract have been filed as unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB. This process takes longer than grievances handled through arbitration, but frequently the threat of a well-documented complaint is enough to get the company to back off.
Members from the floor expressed concern over company actions in changing job duties and other conditions of employment. Schick pointed out that those conditions are covered under the old contract and "the terms of the contract remain in effect." If any members feel the company is trying to take advantage of the uncertain situation, they should call the Guild office (421-9466) or get in touch with an executive board member. In advertising that's Jeff Andrade, Del St. Jean or Tony Caputo. In editorial downtown it's Greg Smith, Felice Freyer, Thom Cahir or Kerry Kohring. For the bureaus, try Bob Jagolinzer, John Hill, Paul Davis or Linda Cox.
The Guild has recently challenged the company over an intern in sports and the company gave in. "Whenever they give you a subtle change in working conditions, call us," Schick said.
In response to one member's expression of a desire to accept the company's demands, Schick emphasized that such an action would only reinforce the company's illegal behavior. Several members said the company's proposal remains a bad one.
Schick pointed out that the current stalemate is all about workers having a right to affect the conditions of their employment and that the company is trying to strip away that right.
The meeting adjourned at 12:58 p.m. No votes were taken. Members are reminded that to be eligible to cast a ballot on any Guild decisions, they must be up to date on dues payments.
(Pawtucket City Hall is off Interstate 95 north at exit 28, School Street. Go left at the end of the ramp to the end of the road, then left and over the bridge spanning the Pawtucket River. Once over the river, go right. City Hall is the brick building with the tower. Free parking is available across the street.)
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495