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A brief respite from the union-management standoff
By Ian Donnis

The unexpected death last week of Bob Jagolinzer, a Providence Journal reporter who served as president of the Providence Newspaper Guild, temporarily cast aside the long-running management-union dispute at the newspaper. Indeed, the tension associated with the scrap was entirely absent when Carol Young, the ProJoís deputy executive editor ó prior to a moment of silence during the Rhode Island Press Associationís annual banquet in Newport on May 16 ó hailed Jagolinzer as " a very earnest, dedicated [Guild] president. "

As reported in the ProJo, Jagolinzer was found in the Warren River earlier that day, near where he kept his 21-foot fishing boat moored in Barrington. Family members said heíd suffered a brain aneurysm, fell into the water and drowned after passing out. For those who knew Jagolinzer, a Journal reporter for more than half of his 60 years, it was a startling reminder of the fleeting quality of mortality.

Jagolinzer kept a relatively low profile during five years as Guild president, typically deferring public comment to administrator Tim Schick, even if he enjoyed unleashing a regular salvo at the Dallas-based Belo Corporation, which bought the Journal in 1997, during the Guildís annual Follies. Phoenix contributor Brian C. Jones, who reported for the Journal for 36 years and served on the Guildís executive board, credits Jagolinzer with taking on " a difficult job when no one else would do it, " during what would become the most protracted labor dispute in the Journalís history. And although the stress that comes with the job has taken a tough toll on some predecessors, Jones says, Jagolinzer weathered it well by comparison.

The labor dispute, which worsened after the Guildís last contract expired in early 2000, has remained largely invisible to Journal readers. And bursts of terrific reporting ó such as Marion Davisís smartly observed five-part examination this week of Hope High School, a barometer of the challenge in improving public education in Providence ó reflect the paperís ongoing commitment to narrative journalism.

Still, the Guild-management dispute never remains far away. During Beloís May 13 annual meeting in Dallas, for example, Guild executive board member Kerry Kohring told Belo chairman Robert Decherd, according to www.riguild.org, that the Journalís violations of federal labor law amount to a trespass of Beloís own ethics code. Pressing the point, Kohring asked, " Will you please detail for us what actions you and the management committee will take to enforce the Belo code of conduct in this case? "

Kohring says Decherd didnít answer the question. Instead, according to the newsletter, " Decherd said that he regrets that the Guild and the company have not reached a contract agreement, but that the annual meeting is not the appropriate place to discuss labor relations. "

Belo spokesman Scott Baradell and Journal publisher Howard Sutton didnít return calls seeking comment.

In two separate decisions since September 2002, a National Labor Relations Board judge has found the Journal guilty of 27 unfair labor practice charges in its dealings with the Guild. After having already challenged an earlier ruling, the Journal recently appealed the latest decision (see " NLRB judge scorns editorís credibility in Ziner case, " This just in, April 17) by administration law judge William G. Kocol.

In particular, the new appeal challenges Kocolís finding that the assignment of veteran reporter Karen Lee Ziner to the night police beat was irregular and punitive. Rather, the appeal states, " [It] was a legitimate business decision unrelated to any concerted or other protected activities engaged in by Ms. Ziner. "

Meanwhile, after a recent hiatus, the Guild and ProJo managers are slated to soon resume talks that could result in a company offer being presented to union members for a vote.

Issue Date: May 23 - 29, 2003
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