Tuesday, May 21, 2013

News-Press Declares Itself Union Free Zone, Teamsters May Say, Not So Fast

Sometimes the News-Press reminds me of my Swedish neighbor. You know, the one who is always "yumping the gun."

On Saturday the News-Press ran a front page story reporting that a majority of its newsroom staff signed a petition to withdraw recognition of the Teamsters Union as its authorized bargaining representative. If in fact it is true that the News-Press has rid itself of the union, it would be free to change terms and conditions of employment for newsroom employees without communicating with the union.

So, is this the end of a unionized newsroom at the News-Press? Well, not so fast.

This isn't the first time a decertification petition has been circulated at the News-Press. There's been at least one other petition that was passed around that garnered a plurality of signatures of the newsroom employees and the circulator in each case was sportswriter Gerry Fall. When a previous attempt was made to file the signed petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) it was blocked because of pending unfair labor practices (ULP) charges. While the Union reportedly has not yet decided what, if anything, they want to do about this most recent petition, they have several possible options including the possibility of filing a a new ULP charge because of, once again, a pending adjudication that News-Press management has been guilty of bad faith in the bargaining process. That finding is not affected by the decision of the DC Circuit court that the firing of eight News-Press employees did not violate the National Labor Relations Act.

Reportedly, key union members were not asked whether they were willing to sign the petition although it is believed that some of the newsroom employees who did sign previously supported the union but grew frustrated with the lack of raises and bonuses. But of course, when was the last time anyone in the newsroom got a raise or a bonus? It was two or so years ago that management gave an eight percent pay cut to its nonunion employees.

While the News-Press may want us to believe that the demise of unionized newsroom may be a done deal, it may be only a half-baked proposition. No one will know for sure until the union and the NLRB weighs in. Until then, anyone know of a good recipe for Swedish meatballs?