As some of you may have read yesterday, the Newspaper Guild is suing the P.I. over the existence of online reporter Monica Guzman . After


Guzmangate Continues

The other Washington's Monica has the Guild and the P.I. at each other's throats.

As some of you may have read yesterday, the Newspaper Guild is suing the P.I. over the existence of online reporter Monica Guzman. After the jump you'll find a little more depth -- specifically, the initial blast e-mail sent out by Guild rep Liz Brown and P.I. publisher Roger Oglesby's response. It's interesting stuff that could help to define whether papers can circumvent union regulations when it comes to hiring web-specific talent in an increasingly web-specific age, but having read Guzman's stuff, we think their anger is misplaced. The Guild shouldn't be suing the P.I. for pulling an end-around; they should be suing the P.I. for failure to adhere to reasonable journalistic standards by hiring such a dolt to be the face of its web content. But then, that's about what you'd expect from a crew of aging hipster wannabe suckups who serve up Sassy D. Parvaz (a full-time blogger in columnist's clothing; shouldn't she have gotten Guzman's gig?) and "Snark Attack" every Saturday. And now, for the Brown-Oglesby e-mail ping-pong...

To: All P-I Guild members
From: Liz Brown, Guild administrative officer
Re: Legal action against the P-I

I want everyone at the P-I to hear about this first from the union.

Today, the Guild is filing a lawsuit against the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in U.S. District Court. The lawsuit seeks to compel the P-I to honor our contract and submit a dispute over the online reporter position to binding arbitration.

It's extremely unusual for the Guild to file a lawsuit against an employer, for a couple of reasons.

First, we try to settle disputes before they turn into grievances. Second, all 16 contracts administered by our local, including the P-I agreement, require us to submit unresolved grievances to an arbitrator. The last time we filed for arbitration at the P-I was in 2001.

In this case, the P-I says it simply won't participate. It's such an egregious abrogation of our contract that we are forced to respond with the lawsuit.

The bottom line: The P-I insists that the duties of an online reporter are different from those of Guild members, which makes it okay to assign the online reporter duties to someone not in the bargaining unit. The Guild contract says the union has jurisdiction over "all work presently being performed by Guild members in the Editorial and Business office," and we believe the duties of an online reporter are the same duties you perform.

Our members blog, write stories, shoot photo galleries, record audio and report breaking news runs only online. Guild members have made the P-I a "Web first" news operation.

We all know where the industry is headed. We'll leave it to others to speculate why the P-I is so resistant to the idea of online work belonging within the union's jurisdiction. What we're hearing from our members, in our ongoing survey, is that you're doing a lot of online work, and you want to keep your bargaining rights while you do it.

-----Original Message-----
From:         Oglesby, Roger
Sent: Tuesday, September 25, 2007 7:15 PM
To:   PiStaff
Subject: Guild lawsuit

Along with many people both inside and outside the P-I, I was disturbed to hear today that the Guild has said it is filing a lawsuit. I continue to believe, as I said in my Sept. 13 email, that negotiation is a vastly preferable alternative to litigation, which is expensive and damages valuable relationships built over a long period of time. We all know this from the experiences of the last four years. Litigation, once under way, can quickly get out of control and threaten much that we all hold dear.

Someone sent me an email in reply to my message Sept. 13 that led me to believe there may not be a universally accurate understanding of the facts underlying the Guild's position in this matter. Let me clarify a couple of things.

Under a 1998 agreement with the P-I, the Guild agreed that it did not represent our new media employees. Last year the Guild attempted to cancel that agreement unilaterally, and the P-I is resisting that effort. An agreement is an agreement, and there is nothing in the terms of this one that allows unilateral cancellation by either party. Agreements can be changed, of course, if the parties reach consensus on how they should be changed. But that requires negotiation.

The fact is, the P-I can't accede to arbitration in this dispute because it is not an appropriate matter for arbitration under federal law. I recognize the Guild represents a certain group of people at the P-I. But it does so only by their choice, and it doesn't represent everyone. Among those it doesn't represent are the P-I's new media employees, and that is not something the Guild can change through arbitration.

The Guild' s representation of employees here is subject to the terms of a labor contract. If the leadership would agree to come to the table, negotiation of this dispute would begin with the existing terms of that contract and proceed in an orderly fashion from there. I continue to hope the Guild will put the best interests of its P-I members first and pursue that path. The future of those of us who work in this building is best assured by focusing our resources on great journalism rather draining them through needless and damaging litigation. The stakes are high. One must wonder who benefits from these actions - certainly not the P-I and its employees.

comments powered by Disqus