Providence's Alternative Source!

Divide remains wide with start of NLRB hearing


Relations between the Providence Journal Company and the Providence Newspaper Guild remain characteristically sour even after the start of a National Labor Relations Board hearing on Monday, February 25, was followed by a round of last-minute bargaining between the two sides.

According to the Guild's NLRB coverage Web site,, the company rejected a Guild proposal after a two-hour negotiating session on February 26 and made no proposals of its own. The lack of progress led to a resumption of the NLRB hearing, which began a day earlier at Pawtucket City Hall with opening arguments by lawyers for the newspaper and the NLRB.

The 46 charges against the Journal Company include allegations that the company made unilateral changes in working conditions and benefits; bargained in bad faith or refused to bargain; and refused to provide necessary information. Union-management relations deteriorated sharply with the expiration of the Guild's most recent contract in early 2000, fostering a view by the union, which represents close to 500 reporters, advertising workers, and other employees, that Belo-backed managers are trying to destroy the Guild. Journal Company managers have denied having an anti-union animus.

During opening arguments, Richard A. Perras of Edwards & Angell, a lawyer for the newspaper, and NLRB lawyer Elizabeth Vorro, who is representing the government's case, presented clashing arguments about whether it's the Guild or management that bears responsibility for the situation. Guild administrator Tim Schick, who was called as the first witness, testified about the history of union-management negotiations over the last 12 years. The hearing, which is being presided over by administrative law judge William G. Kocol, is expected to last two weeks.

After the most recent negotiating session, in November 2001, proved fruitless, the Journal Company made a new contract offer five days before the start of the NLRB trial. Guild officials, who said they were pleased that the company showed an interest in talking, proposed delaying the hearing in favor of round-the-clock talks. The two parties seemed no closer than before, though, after the February 26 negotiating session, with the Guild rapping management for wanting the union to take a contract offer without further explanation. Company officials didn't return calls seeking comment.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis[a]

Issue Date: March 1 - 7, 2002