The Dayton Newspaper Guild has filed another Unfair Labor Practice charge against the Company.
As you will recall, we already had one ULP this year, dealing with the pay grades. The new ULP, filed Wednesday, deals with three issues that are inter-related:
• the denial of night differential to those transferred from other Cox Ohio Publishing properties to the universal desk.
• the denial of vacation rights to two employees.
• perhaps most egregiously, the Company’s retaliation against those two employees whose sole sin was to alert the Guild to violations of the contract.
Let’s start at the beginning.
On June 11, a member of the universal desk told the Guild via email that the Company had started denying night differential to our new brothers and sisters who were transferred from Springfield and the Southwest group.The Company has taken a particularly ludicrous position: that a side agreement signed in March by Guild President Lou Grieco and Company attorney Brett Thurman eliminated night differential for these employees.
This side agreement, drafted by Guild attorney Julie Ford, did nothing of the kind. It set salaries for the new universal employees, most of whom received significant raises, according to a plan negotiated by Grieco and Thurman. It also acknowledged that those transferred employees were Guild members, and covered a few issues involving the new building, such as employee parking.
It did not address night differential, or seniority issues. Nor did it contain any references to changing any of the terms of the existing contract, for the transferring employees or anyone else.
In a meeting between management and Guild representatives, one Company representatives said that, despite what the contract and side agreement actually said, “in my mind” those salaries were the only compensation the Company was agreeing to pay. That’s a novel legal argument we’re more than happy to take to the National Labor Relations Board.
During that meeting, the Company also raised the specter that overtime callbacks and other provisions might not be in their “minds.” So to settle the grievance, they offered to give our new brothers and sisters overtime callbacks, but not night differential.
That’s a bit like having a burglar steal your television set, then argue he should get to keep it since he could have taken your stereo as well.
Also during that meeting, we discussed another grievance. It turns out that the employee who raised the issue of shift differential through an email to Guild officers – and copied to members of management – was told ten days later that he did not have any vacation this year, because he is new to the bargaining unit.
It’s true that the contract does not provide for vacation in the first year of employment. But nothing has ever stopped the Company from granting vacation to new hires, and the Guild has never stepped in the way of that. More importantly, the Company has a long precedent of honoring seniority whenever someone transfers in to the bargaining unit from another Cox property – so he and the other transferred copy desk employees are not new, first-year employees.
For more than 12 years, reporters and other employees have had their seniority honored when they came from Springfield and the Southwest Group. Many of those employees are still here.
We told this to the Company during that meeting. The response was that this copy editor could take vacation, but would be borrowing against next year, since he is accruing this year. Company representatives said that all of the transferees to the universal desk were being treated this way.This is simply not true. We’ve investigated. Most of the people we’ve talked with said they were told that they would get vacation benefits this year, just as if they had worked at their previous paper for the entire year. Some of them had email evidence. Not one was told anything about “borrowing” against next year’s vacation
The Company had no good answer for this situation, except to acknowledge that obviously, different people, including in editorial management and finance, were saying different things. The Company representatives stuck by their position: that all of the transfers would be treated this way. They also said that they would be notifying people to clarify the situation.
To our knowledge, they didn’t. Instead, the Company took a cue from La Cosa Nostra and retaliated, including threats against a member.
Just after the meeting, which occurred on Aug. 3, the employee who was the subject of those grievances received a phone call at his home. The caller was a manager at his former paper. That manager told the employee that he had been asked to call and to tell the employee to drop his grievance, or else some of his co-workers would “lose seniority.” The Sopranos-wannabe would not say who asked him to call, and hung up when the employee said the call was improper.
That’s pathetic, even for this Company. It’s also disgusting. And it’s also illegal.
But the Company wasn’t done yet.
The Guild expected questions from copy editors about the Company’s stance on vacation seniority, since the Company was supposed to notify them. We never heard from the copy editors. When we asked, several have told us that the company never sent any notice to them.
Instead, we heard from a reporter — and you’ll never guess whom they picked.
As many of you will recall, we had a grievance earlier this year involving a female employee who was being underpaid according to the terms of our agreement. It took several months, but we finally resolved it in terms favorable to the employee.
On Aug. 6, the next working day after our meeting, that female employee – whose name was brought up in the Aug. 3 meeting by management — was told by her boss that she would not get vacation this year because she is in her first year of the Guild contract. Never mind that another manager had already told her months ago that her seniority from another Cox paper would give her a certain number of weeks this year.
This is unbelievable.
So if you’re keeping score, the company is once again trying to make unilateral changes – in both night differential and vacation seniority – without bargaining. The Company is also threatening members – an illegal tactic we will not stand for. In fact, if you know of any attempt to intimidate our members, regardless of how small, please notify a member of the Guild’s executive board. We’re sure the NLRB will be interested.
Of course, a decent company would fire both the manager who threatened an employee and whoever put him up to it. (Just for the record, that manager was seen in our building, talking to our managers, just one day before the incident).
We recognize what the Company is doing: trying to intimidate workers, trying to create divisions within the bargaining unit, trying to target rank-and-file employees to gain advantage at the bargaining table. We have news for the Company: It isn’t going to work.