Contract vote set; board urges 'no'
Proposal offers little retroactive pay, minuscule raises;
'Poison pill' prevents it from taking effect on ratification
The Guild and the Journal have agreed to present to Guild members the company's latest contract proposal, a six-year contract that offers no retroactive pay for 2000 and 2002, a 3 percent raise for 2001, 6 percent for 2003, and guaranteed raises of only 1.5 percent in 2004 and 2005.
The proposal also includes a "poison pill" provision -- inserted by the company in the final negotiating sessions -- that prevents the contract from even going into effect upon ratification. The entire contract is now contingent on the National Labor Relations Board expunging the company's convictions on 27 unfair-labor-practices charges.
The Executive Committee voted unanimously today to recommend rejection of this offer. A membership meeting to discuss the contract has been scheduled for noon on June 11 at the Guild office, 270 Westminster St. Secret-ballot voting will start at 12:45 p.m. June 11 at the Guild office and continue until 6:30 p.m.; voting will also take place from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m on June 12. Only members who are up-to-date in all dues payments can attend the meeting and vote.
The contract proposal offers little retroactive pay--only 40 percent of what is owed to us--and allows the company to set wages in 2004 and 2005. The wage offer falls short of what the NLRB ordered by $1.2 million-the exact amount of the bonus recently paid to Belo chairman Robert Decherd. (The Guild also estimates the $1.2 million shortfall to be approximately the Journal's legal costs over the past three years.)
Not everything in the contract proposal is bad. For example, it includes free parking and upgrades for several people in pre-publishing. It has a strong "evergreen" clause that will allow us to continue bringing grievances to arbitration after the contract expires.
But everything has been undermined by the company's last-minute poison pill. The Journal has insisted that the National Labor Relations Board drop all penalties against the company and expunge the record of its convictions before the contract can take effect. That means that the company would walk away scot-free, with no penalty and no record of its wrongdoing.
The bargaining committee objected to making the entire contract contingent on the NLRB's actions. We don't know whether the NLRB will agree to drop the convictions, and we don't know how long it will take to decide. The company was adamant about this provision, however.
So if you were inclined to vote for the contract just to end the conflict, forget it-because even after the vote, it's still not over. Even if members vote to accept the company's offer, we don't know when-or if-we'll see the benefits.
The company will probably tell you that it's sure the NLRB will readily vacate its rulings. Obviously, if the company were truly confident that the NLRB would act in its favor, it wouldn't have felt it necessary to make the contract contingent on that action.
If we're going to have to wait for an NLRB decision anyway, we might as well wait for the one that's likely to result in us getting what the company owes us. The company's appeal of its conviction on 27 unfair-labor-practice charges is currently before the NLRB in Washington. It's highly likely that the board will uphold most of the convictions-under which we would get 3 percent annual raises for 2000, 2001 and 2003--but the litigation could take years.
The Guild leadership at first thought it would be irresponsible to even bring to a vote a contract that is contingent on a third party's action. It's a dangerous precedent. But none of us-least of all the leadership-can tolerate any more secrecy. It's time for members to know all there is to know, and to speak their minds. We urge you to vote "no." As Publisher Howard Sutton said, that will send a message. It's a message the company needs to hear.
Attached (in hard copy; coming soon on this site) is a detailed list of the contract's provisions, compared with other possibilities. The first column shows the company's 2000 proposal. The second column is what we're voting on - the company's current offer. The third column shows the benefits ordered by the NLRB.
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495