JOURNAL SAYS UNION DUES ARE MANDATORY
· Company's announcement follows arbitrator's ruling
· Most Guild members already have been paying dues
The Providence Journal Co. has announced that all eligible Guild bargaining unit members must immediately pay union dues "as a condition of employment." The announcement is the first step toward company compliance with a July arbitration ruling.
In a letter to Guild-represented workers Aug. 22, the company said an arbitrator's decision July 19 requires the payments be made directly to the union.
However, Thomas J. McDonough, director of human resources, said that the company believes that the arbitrator's ruling was "in error" and that it is considering appealing the decision.
"Effective immediately, Guild bargaining unit members are obligated to pay Guild dues as a condition of employment under the terms of the expired contract's union security clause," McDonough said.
Most Guild members have been paying their dues since the company refused to extend the contract in February, 2000. At the time, it wrote to union members saying that so-called "union security" measures no longer were in force and dues paying was voluntary.
Almost three quarters of all dues owed the union have been paid by Guild-represented employees. The company's letter acknowledges that 100 percent of dues owed must be paid.
The company itself was ordered by Arbitrator Roberta Golick to pay the back bill equivalent to uncollected dues, because the arbitrator said it misled union members about their obligations.
The Guild has calculated the bill at more than $210,000.
In his letter, McDonough said that the company for now wouldn't make any "retroactive payments" to the Guild until any remaining legal issues are resolved.
John Hill, the Guild's secretary, today welcomed the company's move, saying that it clears up any confusion that may have existed among members about dues requirements.
"This has been a hard-fought dispute between the company and the union, and the company has taken a positive step in acknowledging the arbitrator's award without giving up its legal options," Hill said.
What's most important, Hill said, is for the union and the company to reach agreement on a new contract itself.
Hill expressed gratitude to the hundreds of Guild members who have faithfully supported the union on a voluntary basis, saying their efforts have kept the union's finances strong through a trying period.
"Now, it's clear that all bargaining unit members who are required to pay dues must make the payments, putting everyone on a level playing field," Hill said.
Although the company said Guild members must begin paying dues, it did not say it would resume deducting the dues through payroll deduction, or so-called dues "checkoff."
The arbitrator ruled that the company was within its rights to halt checkoff after the contract expired, and McDonough indicated it would not resume that practice now.
Thus, the Guild will continue to collect dues directly through two methods:
· For those who wish to pay by check, it will send monthly bills.
· Or the union will automatically charge credit cards of unit members who wish to authorize the deductions.
The dues dispute goes back to early 2000, when the Guild resoundingly rejected the company's contract offer and the company refused to extend the old contract. At that time, McDonough wrote Guild bargaining unit members that they were free to join the Guild or not, and that dues paying similarly was voluntary.
The Guild maintains that the union security clause remained in force, requiring bargaining unit employees to join the Guild, or pay the equivalent of union dues. That's because the contract had a so-called "evergreen" clause, which said that union security stayed in force beyond the old contract and through the new pact, which is still to be negotiated.
The company claimed the evergreen clause expired with the old contract. But U.S. District Court Judge Mary Lisi and Arbitrator Golick both sided with the Guild.
The company has appealed Lisi's ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals, which heard oral arguments Aug. 2 and is expect to issue a ruling in late summer or this fall.
In his letter this week, McDonough said:
"Going forward, unless and until the arbitrator's award is reversed, employees will be required to pay dues directly to the Guild.
"This action is prospective only and is without prejudice to the Company's right to contest the Arbitrator's award. The Company will make no retroactive payments unless and until the award is confirmed."
Under the security clause, all new hires are required to join the union. Under federal law, those who do not wish to be members must make payments equivalent to dues to support the union's cost of representing them.
But non-members and individuals delinquent in their dues payments are not allowed to vote on union matters, including whether to approve the contract when a settlement has been reached.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495