The Newspaper Guild reached a settlement with the Times Union over the newspaper’s cutting off of union dues in 2009.
As part of the agreement, the company will resume dues collection from members’ paychecks effective Friday, Aug. 19. The Times Union will also pay $32,720 to be distributed equally among Guild-covered employees.
Before taxes, that amounts to a little more than $160 a member. While the amount is not large, it is significant that the company is making a payment to settle the case, which was scheduled to go to an arbitrator on Aug. 30.
“We appreciate the members who have been consistently paying their dues all along, and we understand they may question why people who failed to pay dues are getting a financial payment as part of the settlement,” Guild President Tim O’Brien said. “If we had taken the case to arbitration and won, however, the company would have been required to pay back dues for everyone who was in arrears and our most loyal members would have received nothing. This agreement also makes it far easier for all our members to support the union through payroll deduction.”
The Executive Board will now decide, with input from the membership, how to determine good standing for members going forward.
Chief steward Brian Nearing said: “The board will be crafting a package from our own treasury that recognizes the need to give something back to our long-standing supporters.”
That will entail providing money back to those who have paid their dues consistently. For those in arrears, that will mean setting an amount people must pay of their debt before they are in good standing and eligible to vote, run for office and attend membership meetings. There are strict federal rules we have to follow, and we will seek advice from our International. We intend to hold a membership meeting by early September to have this discussion.
“Our board had hoped to include settlement of the dues case as part of a package that included all outstanding issues including our contract,” O’Brien said. “But you have to settle when the timing is right, and we were about to go to arbitration on the dues issue. Though we were confident in our case, you never know what an arbitrator might decide. The union remains committed to seeking an overall settlement.”
What can help inspire a full agreement is the action now being taken by the National Labor Relations Board: The board is calculating the official number for what the Times Union owes for laying off 11 workers illegally in 2009. The union estimates that number to be more than $500,000.
The Times Union does not have to decide on appealing until the NLRB provides that number. Once it is in hand, the union hopes it will be an impetus to a full settlement of all the issues, which has long been the union’s goal.