The Plain Dealer’s editorial labor union, The Northeast Ohio Newspaper Guild Local 1, has filed three grievances against the paper. If a settlement is not reached this week, the matter could go to arbitration. “Our positions appear to be unresolvable,” says Newspaper Guild Executive Secretary Rollie Dreussi.
In the first and biggest issue, the union claims that the December layoffs of 27 editorial staff included senior employees who should have been protected by the labor contract. “We don’t feel seniority was taken into account at all,” says Dreussi. PD management did not respond to Scene’s request for comment.
A separate point claims that non-discrimination language about age was not followed in determining which employees were let go. “Older and more experienced employees were laid off,” says Dreussi. “So we’re contending [the PD has] discriminated on the basis of age — and, maybe, union activity.”
In another issue, the Guild says managers (mostly editors) are doing the work of laid-off employees and active union members, from copy editing to page design, in violation of the labor agreement. This complaint includes the creation of some online material. The union contract says online work belongs to union members. But the contract has some vague provisions that allow non-union employees — from freelancers to managers — to contribute to exclusively “online venues” such as blogs, podcasts or chatrooms.
In March, PD management cut non-union employees’ pay and instituted mandatory 10-day furloughs. The cutbacks affect over a third of PD employees. Management has not presented the Guild with similar concessions.
If the grievances are resolved in the union’s favor, some jobs from the December cuts could be reinstated.
“We don’t want to see anybody laid off or see other people kicked out the door,” says Guild Union Chair Harlan Spector. “My position is: we need to defend the contract. … I’d like to see some people get their job back without costing some people their jobs. … The fact is: there’s not enough of us to do the work that’s required.” — D.X. Ferris