Labor Negotiator In Or Out? p.6

By: GEORGE GARNEAU FRANK HAVLICEK, the longtime chief labor negotiator for the Washington Post, has been re-lieved of duties in negotiating a new contract for 600 mailers and mailroom helpers.
Post Co. President Boisfeuillet Jones Jr. said Havlicek had "resigned" and was on vacation pending finalization of his departure.
"This is his own decision, not anything that was asked of him," Jones said, giving no reason but hoping Havlicek would remain as a consultant.
"I have not resigned," Havlicek declared later the same day. He said he told management he would quit if it withdrew support for his plan to equalize the pay, benefits and work of the two separate bargaining units of the mailers union.
He said management refused his resignation offer, so he took vacation "in order to give the Post maximum flexibility."
A week earlier, Havlicek was replaced, without explanation, as the Post's chief representative in talks with the mailers union, leaving the union, Communications Workers of America Local 14201, unsure of Havlicek's status in the contentious talks, which began in mid-April to replace two contracts set to expire June 15.
Both sides accuse the other of threats, stalling and more.
The union said the company failed to answer questions about its proposals. Management said the union, in its intransigence and "bad faith," had refused to respond to offers, failed to propose counter offers, and refused to acknowledge management's acceptance of union proposals or unsolicited offers to improve terms.
In a seven-page memo distributed to hundreds of mailers, union officials and Post managers on May 22, Havlicek blamed the union for bringing the talks to a standstill, making an impasse likely come June 16, and proposed a "final offer."
The memo focuses on the company's effort to equalize the two mailroom bargaining units. The mailers unit, about 400 strong and mostly white and male, makes about $24 an hour, plus full health insurance, and enjoys lifetime job guarantees. The helpers, about 200 strong and mostly black and female, earn $18 an hour, with lower benefits and less job security.
In the memo, Havlicek said he was disappointed by the CWA's "total intransigence" on "such an issue of basic fairness as the integration of the separate but unequal" units ? mailers and mailroom helpers ? who work side by side inserting preprinted ad inserts into the Post.
"The divergent ethnic and gender makeup of these two groups . . . is the result of decades of hiring by the mailers union," he said, insisting on the company's "right as an employer to employ its own employees."
Since the newspaper had no power to merge the two bargaining units, it was proposing to achieve a similar end by contract terms: renaming all mailroom workers mailers, sharing work, increasing job security for helpers, increasing helper health insurance at the expense of current mailers, giving both units the same pay hikes and seeking "mirror image" contracts.
In an effort to afford helpers more equity and dignity, Havlicek said, the Post flatly refused union demands to make "arbitrary distinctions" between the groups.
William Boarman, CWA vice president and head of the 25,000-member printing, publishing and media sector, said that among about 80 proposed contract changes, management was seeking a pay freeze in the first two years of a five-year contract, then raises of $7.50 a week every six months. He said the union wants major improvements in health insurance and significant annual raises.
Some union leaders suggested Havlicek was forced out over an exchange with Boarman in which Havlicek warned that the CWA wasn't big enough to take on the newspaper that took on the presidency ? an allusion to Watergate that union officials called arrogant and typical of Havlicek's combative style.
His comments were reported in union newsletters, and picked up by the Washington Times. Ever eager to embarrass the dominant Post, the Times carried an item in its "Inside the Beltway" gossip column quoting "Ben Bradlee," a source named after the legendary Post editor, now retired.
In an interview June 3, Post president Jones denied Havlicek's job situation was related to his Watergate allusion.
Boarman and Havlicek, in separate interviews, gave different versions of the incident. Though Havlicek did not deny making the reference, he said the exchange culminated in Boarman throwing a pile of papers ? National Labor Relations Board complaints to be exact ? in Havlicek's face.
A lawyer who since 1988 has been the Post's vice president for industrial relations and environmental services, Havlicek said the newspaper had posted guards outside his Washington home for eight days after he received threats from Boarman and others.

Union is pleased
Union bargainers welcomed Havlicek's departure as an opportunity to improve labor relations at the Post, the flagship and biggest profit generator of the Washington Post Co. "He is the most difficult employer representative I ever had to deal with" in 30 years union of bargaining, Boarman said of Havlicek.
"There has never been good faith. . . . It's been a horrible relationship," he said, citing a litany of Havlicek's "outrageous" acts, including self-righteous speeches, insults and accusations against union negotiators, violations of confidentiality, and statements calling the union's lawyer a liar, Boarman said.
"He berated us at every meeting, accusing us of unfair labor practices. Everything is intimidation and bully-
ing . . . . Everything is winning with him, not settling. That's an unhealthy way to conduct labor relations . . . . With Havlicek, you couldn't get anything done."
In fact, the National Labor Relations Board has found enough evidence to file four complaints of unfair labor practices against the mailers union. Initiated under Havlicek, the complaints are scheduled for trial in July.
Havlicek called Boarman's statements "totally inaccurate and virtually a reflection of his own behavior in these negotiations."
"The Post has long-term contracts with eight other unions," he continued, "and Post mailers make $44,000 a year for a six-hour workday and have lifetime jobs and free health insurance. I offered to give helpers five-year job security, unasked for, to promote all helpers to mailers, to give them the same health insurance and the same wage increases. I think it would be hard to square those facts with his characterization of me."
Havlicek, who has represented unions, taught labor policy at Columbia University, arbitrated disputes, and has been a delegate to International Labor Organization conferences, predicted his record and reputation will survive Boarman's "groundless accusations."
Another union leader also cited Havlicek's arrogance and how it made negotiations demeaning and entirely unpleasant.
"From my point of view, Frank has done a terrific job negotiating contracts with our unions that are balanced and far-sighted," Post president Jones said. "He's worked in a constructive, creative way."
Carol Rosenblatt, administrative officer for the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild Local 35, who hammered out a three-year contract with Havlicek in 1995, hoped the Post would "see this vacancy as an opportunity to consider someone who is interested in more cooperative labor relations."
Boarman said relations already have warmed, beginning with the first session without Havlicek. Willis Goldsmith headed a team from the Post's local labor law firm.
"Clearly at last week's meeting there was a different tone, and we left on excellent terms," Boarman said, citing more progress on issues than at any earlier session.
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?(copyaright: Editor & Publisher June 7, 1997)


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