to rest case tomorrow
Tomorrow or Tuesday, the Providence Journal will begin its defense at its two-week trial in Pawtucket City Hall.
The Guild doesn't know which witnesses the company will call, but they are likely to include Thomas McDonough, human resources director; Dorothy Bouley; former benefits manager; Pat Welker, managing editor for administration; and Sue Areson, metro editor.
Throughout last week, the NLRB offered evidence of 46 violations of federal labor law by the Journal in its years-long dispute with the Providence Newspaper Guild.
Sworn testimony and documents, admitted according to the strict rules of evidence, backed up the Guild's longstanding contentions: that the company, on a union-busting mission, has resorted to stonewalling, take-it-or-leave-it offers, unilateral changes and retaliation.
The trial featured editorial assistant Doreen Tracey describing how she diligently compiled the graduation lists year after year. Her reward for her good work? The company cheated her out of the differential she'd previously received for this extra effort -- by suddenly producing a new job description that incorporated the graduation lists.
It featured reporter Karen Ziner telling of her efforts to do her job when her doctor said she couldn't drive for a month. All she wanted was the opportunity to use taxi vouchers, as the company has allowed in the past, instead of having to pay up front and seek reimbursement later. Although there were no extra costs or inconvenience in providing the vouchers, the company refused -- and restricted Ziner to stories in Providence.
And it featured the unflappable Tim Schick, the Guild's administrator, who calmly detailed the history of negotiations -- which consisted primarily of the Guild making offers and the company rejecting them. Schick described how the company turned aside the Guild's requests for further bargaining and instead, piece by piece, imposed selected aspects of its original contract proposal.
The testimony last week focused on four main types of law-breaking:
Imposing contract terms without bargaining. On Jan. 1, 2000, the Journal required its workers to accept inferior and more costly health and dental plans, without working out a compromise with the union as the law requires, according to Schick's testimony. The union had made several modifications to its health-benefits proposal, including agreeing to higher premium co-pays, but the company never budged, he said. The health plans that were imposed are identical to those in the company's original contract proposal.
An employer can legally impose terms of employment only after extensive good-faith bargaining has failed to produce an agreement. But the Journal imposed conditions after making little effort to bargain, Schick's testimony showed. Some of the terms that were imposed had never even been discussed at the bargaining table.
Denying or delaying needed information. The Journal refused to provide, or delayed unreasonably in providing, information that the union needed and had a right to receive. For example, the company waited until more than six months after the 2001 health plans took effect before it answered basic questions from the union on how those plans would work.
Although the company alleged that the Guild's requests were burdensome, Schick's testimony showed that in some cases the company was actually expending extra effort to deny information. For example, the company stopped sending the Guild copies of its weekly payroll memos, replacing them with a monthly document produced just for the Guild -- and lacking much of the information the contract requires the company to provide.
Unilaterally changing working conditions. The Journal threw out numerous aspects of the contract, which remains in effect, and made changes in working conditions that are supposed to be bargained. In addition to eliminating the differentials, the company cut back on security, hired an outside company to sell ads for a special section, refused to pay overtime to sports editors who were required to come to work early, and assigned to porters plant-care duties that were formerly handled by an outside company.
Regressive bargaining. The NLRB entered into evidence a letter from the Journal to employees threatening to reduce its wage proposal if the Guild persisted in planning for a reader boycott, and a subsequent letter in which the company made good on this threat. The NLRB alleges that this is "regressive bargaining," which is illegal.
The trial starts at 10 a.m. tomorrow.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495