Paper Settles NLRB Complaint By Returning Bylines and Time Off

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By: Joe Strupp

Bylines that had been withheld for nearly three months at the York (Pa.) Daily Record and Sunday News returned today as part of an unfair labor practices settlement between the MediaNews Group newspaper and the local Newspaper Guild, which also included several other concessions to the union leadership.

The settlement stemmed from two complaints issued in June and September by the National Labor Relations Board that accused the paper of failing to bargain in good faith, withholding information, and denying union leaders the right to engage in organizational activities.

As part of the agreement, forged last Friday, the paper paid no fines and admitted to no wrongdoing, but agreed to return bylines that had been withheld since late July, allow union members to wear clothing articles promoting the Guild while on the job, and reinstate time-off for union leaders who had been forced to take such vacation and personal days to engage in union bargaining. From now on, they will be able to take unpaid time off for such negotiations.

“I think with this, it will bring about a labor relations atmosphere of a cooperative nature where people can work together,” said Carrie Biggs-Adams, executive secretary of the Newspaper Guild-CWA in Washington, D.C. and lead negotiator for the York Newspaper Guild. “Some people are getting pretty significant amounts of money or time.”

Michele Canty, president of the local guild and a Daily Record reporter, agreed. “This is good news,” she said in a statement to E&P. “It’s a shame that we had to go through all this, and that our members had to go to the NLRB to get the company to take them seriously and bargain in good faith.” Canty added that the settlement makes guild members feel somewhat vindicated. “We were not crazy or exaggerating. The company had been doing everything to hinder this process. It was very stressful for our bargaining team and our members.”

Publisher Fred Uffelman said in Tuesday’s edition that the agreement was a good move and would rid the paper of “a distraction to the goal of settling a contract.” “We were happy to take the opportunity to get these things put aside so we can sign a contract,” he said. “We want to get to the business of negotiating a contract.”

The settlement is the latest in series of labor activities at the paper dating back to the end of the guild’s last contract on Sept. 29, 2005. Since then the guild, which represents 65 employees, had filed several complaints with the NLRB charging unfair labor activities and efforts to disrupt the union. Among the protests was a week-long byline strike instituted by the guild on July 18.

But when the guild sought to return the bylines after seven days, the newspaper kept them out of the paper indefinitely, agreeing to return them just this week. Even with the settlement, however, the paper and the union remain in negotiations on a new contract, with the parties scheduled to meet this morning for the first time in more than a month.

Biggs-Adams said the union continues to seek a three-year contract with annual raises of 5%, while she says management is offering annual wage increases of 2.5%, 3% and 3%.

“I hope the tide has changed, but from what we’ve seen thus far, I’m skeptical,” Canty admits. “What we need is a contract. Both sides need to work together and get this done. This has gone on way too long.”

Biggs-Adams offered hope that a change in management negotiators, with former Knight Ridder negotiator Marshall Anstandig joining the talks, would help. “I think he is coming in with the understanding that they have to bargain,” she said.

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