Parties pick arbitrator in dues case (updated)

The Newspaper Guild and the Times Union reached agreement this week on the selection of an arbitrator to hear the Guild’s case over the cutting off of our dues last year.

The parties chose an experienced arbitrator, James Collins, to hear the case and decide whether the newspaper improperly cut off dues collection. If the union wins, the company would not only have to resume collecting dues out of paychecks. It would have to reimburse the union for any dues not paid, as happened in Providence, Rhode Island.

In Providence, to be fair to those who paid dues all along, the local gave everyone in good standing half the money paid by the company and required members who were in arrears to pay half of what they owed. This way, everyone paid the same dues.

Tim Schick, the administrative director at the international and past administrator for the Providence local, has clarified what happened there: The company was ordered to pay the back dues. That led the parties to negotiate a full contract settlement. As part of that deal, members in arrears paid double dues through payroll deduction until they became current.

This summer, the Guild won a legal victory in U.S. District Court when Judge Gary Sharpe ordered the newspaper to let the case go to arbitration. The Times Union appealed and sought a stay of his order, which has not been granted. The company is reserving its right to continue its appeal.

“Providence had contract language that was almost identical,” the Guild’s attorney, Barbara Camens, told the Executive Board recently. “I have complete confidence we are going to win the appeal.”

Camens added that the legal victory in Rhode Island created “some of the leverage used to get a contract. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.”

That has always been the intent of the Guild in Albany too.

“We are glad to see the company agree on arbitrator,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “All we’ve ever wanted was a fair contract that lets our members negotiate when the company wants to eliminate their jobs. This creates significant momentum toward reaching that goal.”

The Guild has other leverage including winning a legal victory in the illegal layoffs of employees last year and the company’s recent desire to switch health care plans to one that is not comparable as the imposed conditions require.

“Each of these victories hopefully creates some leverage,” Camens told the board, referring to the legal cases.

International President Bernie Lunzer agreed during the same conversation.  “I am confident the cases are losers for them,” he said.

Camens noted the legal cases are being paid for by the International and are not costing the Albany local anything extra.

“The leverage trend is in our favor,” Camens added. “We’re winning, and they’re losing.”

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