Vol XIV, Issue 20 TNG/CWA Local 31041 Sept. 4, 2003
Judge upholds Guild on dues

Guild reaches more advertisers
Journal sends ad managers to soothe business owners

Energized by the responses from Cardi's Furniture and Pride Auto, Guild members last Saturday continued to seek help from the Journal's major advertisers in pressuring the company to return to the bargaining table.

Three teams, each with four Guild members, handed out fliers at Alperts Furniture, Herb Chambers Honda/Saturn, and Tasca Motors. The efforts led to a promise from Tasca to contact Journal Publisher Howard Sutton and a conversation between Guild President John Hill and the general manager of Herb Chambers, who expressed mixed feelings and did not offer to help.

Apparently spooked by the Guild's campaign, the Journal has now dispatched ad managers to meet with major advertisers and tell them to pay no mind to the Guild leafleters.

Previous leafleting efforts have prompted a phone call from Peter Cardi of Cardi's Furniture and a letter from Al Anjos of Pride Auto. Both urged Sutton to treat Guild members fairly.

Additional leafleting efforts are scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6. If you're interested in participating, please contact Jordan Malik at 617 233-4920 or jordanmalik@hotmail.com.

The Guild's leaflets point out that profits from the business's advertisements are financing the Journal's illegal efforts to weaken the Guild. They ask customers to question the managers about why they buy ads from a newspaper engaged in law breaking, and to urge managers to contact Sutton.

Last Saturday, Guild members had just started handing out fliers at Herb Chambers, in Seekonk, when a manager approached two of them.

The manager was alternately conciliatory and belligerent. He asserted that Guild members were on his property (they were on public land) and complained that on the flier his company's name was printed larger than the Guild's. He demanded a phone call from the Guild president.

Hill called him soon after. "I told him we were sorry to upset him, but it's been three and a half years and we need to shake something loose," Hill said.

At Tasca, in Cranston, a manager said the Guild's flier made it look like Tasca was breaking the law. Hill explained why the Guild needed to turn to advertisers for help. This prompted the manager to talk at length about his own relationship with the Journal. The manager said he would call Sutton. Hill suggested that he also send a letter.


In another major legal success for the Guild, Judge Mary Lisi of U.S. District Court this morning ruled that all members of the Guild bargaining unit must pays dues to the union.

Lisi upheld an arbitrator's decision last July that ordered the Journal to reimburse the Guild for money owed by employees who failed to pay dues between Feb. 6, 2000 and Aug. 22, 2002. The Guild estimates that sum to be about $166,000.

The ruling is a multifaceted victory -- preserving the union's strong and vital role in the Journal workplace, exposing the company's efforts to break it, and hitting the company with huge bill it will be loath to pay.

Feb. 6, 2000 was when the company stopped collecting dues through payroll deduction and illegally told members they didn't have to pay dues. Aug. 22, 2002 was when the company told members that in fact they were obliged to pay.

During that time period, the vast majority of Guild members continued to pay dues in a show of support that outside labor experts found astonishing.

It remains an open question whether the Journal can recoup its $166,000 cost by collecting back dues from the people who failed to pay during that time period. But the Journal could do not so without first negotiating with the Guild.

In her ruling, delivered orally from the bench, Lisi also upheld the contract provision that makes being a Guild member a condition of employment for certain categories of employees at the Journal.

That means that the company must fire anyone who has not been keeping up-to-date on dues payments since Aug. 22, 2002.

Lisi called the ruling by arbitrator Roberta Golick one the best-written decisions she has seen in a long time. But she acknowledged that the Journal, given its recent conduct, would probably appeal to the U.S. Appeals Court in Boston.

The company's decision to stop collecting dues through payroll deduction (known as "dues checkoff") and to mislead workers about their obligation to pay were key components of the Journal's attack on the union. Ending dues checkoff is a classic union-busting tactic, and it was first sign that this was not merely a dispute over contract terms but an all-out war intended to kill or incapacitate the union.

The Guild's previous contract had an "evergreen" provision that kept the clause pertaining to dues in effect through the end of the next contract. On that basis, the Arbitrator Golick ruled that dues must still be paid, and Judge Lisi agreed.

The company intended to impoverish the Guild, but members continued paying dues. Our parent unions, the Communication Workers of America and The Newspaper Guild, picked up our legal fees. Thanks to Golick's decision, the union is operating in the black.

Thus, the Guild's strength through this prolonged assault owes partly to smart negotiations in earlier years by Administrator Tim Schick and the bargaining team. But more important it derives from the Guild members' willingness to continue paying dues in the absence of raises, their steadfastness in supporting the union, and the financial and legal support from our parent unions.

Parking fee complaint settled

The Guild and the Journal have reached agreement on a matter concerning Babette Augustin's parking fees, which had been the subject of an unfair-labor-practices charge. As a result of the settlement, the Guild will withdraw the charge it brought before the National Labor Relations Board in July.

The settlement shows that, even in these contentious times, the Guild continues to effectively represent members and can often resolve grievances.

When Augustin went on medical leave several years ago, the company stopped withholding her parking fees, and failed to resume collecting them when she returned. Augustin, an editor in the visuals department, didn't notice. When she went on another medical leave earlier this year, she asked the company to again stop collecting parking fees. That's when the company realized it hadn't been collecting them all along. The company reinstated the fees and began collecting back fees by garnishing Augustin's paycheck.

In the recent settlement, the company agreed to recoup only 25 percent of the amounts owed by Augustin and Guilhermina Fernandes, another employee in a similar situation. Both Augustin and Fernandes agreed to this compromise.

Bring a stuffed animal to work next Tuesday, Sept. 9, to protest the Journal's new ban on children in the workplace.

(Details on the company's action and the Guild's response to come in a future Guild Leader.)

Copyright © 2002 The Providence Newspaper Guild
TNG/CWA Local 31041
270 Westmister St., Providence, Rhode Island 02903
401-421-9466 | Fax: 401-421-9495