By: Mark Fitzgerald
The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) General Counsel has filed a formal complaint against The Washington Post, alleging it violated labor law by failing to bargain with the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild about “extra” duties imposed on union-represented newsroom and business employees.
The Guild, which represents about 1,200 Post employees, said Thursday that the NLRB’s General Counsel concluded that the Post had “repeatedly” violated federal labor law beginning in 2006 for failing to bargain with the union over employee work on WTWP, Washington Post Radio. The NLRB counsel also complained the Post had imposed a system of “unfair payments — and for the most part, non-payments — to Post employees who contribute to Washington Post Radio,” the Guild said.
The Guild says that while Post management tells employees that going on Washington Post Radio is voluntary, “decisions about merit pay would be based in part on employees’ willingness to participate, calling into question the meaning of the word ‘voluntary.'”
In addition, the NLRB counsel said the Post failed to negotiate in good faith with the union over more recent demands that employees perform work for The Onion. Under an agreement with the satirical weekly, the Post publishes The Onion in Washington. The Guild says the Post has made “unilateral decisions” about whether and how to compensate advertising employees for work on the paper, including ad sales, processing, production, and accounting.
Post spokesman Eric Grant told E&P: ?The Guild challenges to the Post?s multimedia efforts are without merit. These efforts are fully consistent with the Post?s contract with the Newspaper Guild that allows the Post to involve employees in multimedia work, just as we?ve done for many years.? He declined to comment beyond that statement.
“Under established federal labor law, the Guild is the bargaining agent for Post newsroom and commercial employees and is entitled to a meaningful role in determining the employees’ terms of employment,” Robert E. Paul, attorney for the Washington-Baltimore Guild, said in a statement. “In these cases, the Post unfortunately adopted an unlawful and misguided strategy to carve the Guild out of that equation, one that excluded the Guild from serving as a partner with the Post to fashion solutions in this changing landscape of journalism.”
Rick Ehrmann of the Guild local’s Washington Post unit said the NLRB counsel’s decision to issue a complaint “is a measure of the egregiousness of Post management’s disregard for employee rights.”
The NLRB is seeking back pay with interest for employees who allegedly were not compensated fairly. The case is scheduled to go before an administrative law judge in September.
Last December, the Post told the NLRB that it had discussed the radio work with the Guild in off-the-record talks that constituted bargaining on the issue.
In its announcement Thursday, the Guild called that contention “patently false,” and the Post’s disclosure of the talks “a violation of collective bargaining rules and a surprisingly cavalier renunciation of the core journalistic principle of respecting a promise of confidentiality.”