Pete Cardi, an owner of Cardi's Furniture, called Journal Publisher Howard Sutton this week to urge him to resolve the labor conflict at the Journal, after Guild members handed out leaflets outside Cardi's stores in West Warwick and Swansea, Mass., last Saturday.
Cardi, whose company is one of the Journal's biggest advertisers, told Guild President John Hill that Guild members are Cardi's customers, "and we want to see them treated fairly.''
"We could not have hoped for a better result from our handbilling on Saturday," Hill said. "Pete Cardi is someone who can get the Journal's attention."
The handbilling, organized by Executive Committee member Jordan Malik, is part of a multifaceted effort to pressure the company to return to the bargaining table. Guild members on Saturday handed out leaflets outside the two Cardi's stores and also Alpert's Showroom in Seekonk, Mass. These companies were selected because they are major advertisers that also have local headquarters.
"Why is This Business Supporting Law Breaking?" the leaflets' headline said. It went on to explain that "profits from advertisements are being used to help fund unfair labor tactics at the Providence Journal." The flier urged customers to talk to the manager of the business and encourage them to ask Sutton "not to use your money to violate the law."
The Guild took great pains to make sure this leafleting effort was both legal and fair. The previous Monday, the Guild mailed letters to the heads of the two targeted companies, describing the situation at the Journal, asking them to contact Sutton, and alerting them that we would tell their customers about their support of the Journal if they didn't place the call.
The letter and the leaflets were vetted by Guild lawyers in Washington, D.C. The groups at each store were deliberately kept to three or four people; they carried no signs and wore no union t-shirts or buttons, so the groups would not be mistaken for a picket line. The leaflets were addressed to customers, not store employees. Guild members stayed on public property and greeted everyone in a polite and low-key manner.
Leafleters at Cardi's in West Warwick were initially met with some hostility by store management. By coincidence, Cardi's was holding a blood drive and a radio station had set up shop near the store. The police were called, but advised store officials that the Guild members were within their legal rights. They were joined by Pete Cardi and members calmly explained to the Cardis why they had to use these tactics. The more the Cardi brothers heard about what was happening at the Journal, the more sympathetic they became.
Meanwhile, the police had also been summoned to the Swansea store, where Hill and two others were handing out leaflets. The police determined that Guild members were on public property and not creating a traffic hazard.
Pete Cardi then contacted Hill by cell phone in Swansea. Cardi said he had tried to reach the Guild Saturday morning. Hill explained that the Guild had no beef with the Cardis, but needed to get their attention because Sutton listens to what the Cardis say. Cardi said he would try to contact Sutton at home over the weekend, and if that failed, would call him on Monday. Hill agreed to stop the leafleting.
The leafleters at Alperts saw little action. They handed fliers to cars entering the parking lot, but business was slow. Someone from inside the store came out to ask what was going on. A Guild member gave him a leaflet, told him that the store's owner had been contacted, and pointed out that the group was on public property. He left without comment.
The Guild plans other activities to pressure the company to come to the bargaining table and negotiate in good faith, as the law requires. Volunteers are needed. "At the time of the contract vote," Hill said, "we told Guild members that a 'no' vote would mean it's time for renewed activism. We put plans in place for actions that we think will move the company. But we need members to help carry them out. The more people pitch in, the sooner we'll get a contract."
Plans are for Guild members to be out leafleting other advertisers over the next few Saturdays. If you can help out, please contact Jordan Malik at 617 233-4920.
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