Providence's Alternative Source!

Guild and management back at the negotiating table


In their first bargaining session since February, representatives of the Providence Journal and the Providence Newspaper Guild took part in off-the-record talks on Monday, October 28, raising the possibility of progress in the long-running contract dispute between the two sides.

Guild administrator Tim Schick, who represented the union during the session at the Journal's second-floor human resources conference room, credited a series of National Labor Relations Board decisions for the Guild (see "NLRB judge rules in Guild's favor," News, This just in, September 20) with influencing management's hand. "I think management is looking at reestablishing a dialogue to look if we can start resolving some of the issues they've been unwilling to resolve," Schick says. "Their strategy has not worked, and I believe they are searching for a new one."

Journal lawyer Richard A. Perras, who was expected to represent the newspaper during the off-the-record talks, and Mark T. Ryan, the paper's executive vice president and general manager, didn't return calls seeking comment.

Guild members have been working without a contract since their last one expired in early 2000, sparking morale problems and raising concerns that the Dallas-based Belo Corporation, which bought the Journal in 1997, had targeted the union for elimination. Journal publisher Howard G. Sutton has previously denied the presence of an anti-union animus.

The off-the-record nature of this week's talks offered the advantage of enabling the two sides "to float ideas informally, knowing they can always withdraw them without penalty," as the Guild newsletter ( put it. The Guild said it would not trade specific grievances for contract concessions, although the union held open the possibility of resolving NLRB charges at the contract table.

Management may have been particularly interested in renewing talks because of a second NLRB trial, which concluded October 23, after the Guild emerged victorious in the first one earlier this year.

The issues aired during the more recent trial included the October 2001 assignment to the night police shift of veteran reporter Karen Lee Ziner, in contrast to the paper's standing practice of posting young up-and-comers to the beat. The change came after Ziner filed a complaint, protesting the paper's decision to remove her from a domestic violence story deemed fair and

accurate, following a complaint from a source. The situation, first reported by the Phoenix, generated unwelcome publicity for the ProJo after the New York Times picked up on the story.

Ian Donnis can be reached at idonnis[a]

Issue Date: November 1 - 7, 2002