Attorneys seek pre-negotiation surveys; Guild says, ‘No!’
The attorneys hired by Scholastic Magazine to represent it in the current round of negotiations with The Newspaper Guild astoundingly asked us to provide the company with the surveys filled out by employees prior to the talks.
On July 3, Ana Salper, a lawyer with the firm of Epstein Becker & Green, sent Local Representative Bob Townsend a letter noting he had mentioned during the bargaining that the “surveys set forth the items that are most important to the bargaining unit” and “accordingly, they are relevant to the parties’ negotiations and will be useful to Scholastic in formulating bargaining proposals.”
Of course, Scholastic has already formulated bargaining proposals and handed them over to the Guild. Well, sort off. What attorneys representing Scholastic did was dump a whole new contract in our laps.
Townsend responded to Salpin’s request for the survey results, saying the Guild didn’t believe she was entitled to them. “You are not entitled to see how we come up with our proposals any more than we would be entitled to have information regarding the details of management’s deliberations in making plans for its proposals,” he wrote.
Salper didn’t take no for an answer. She insisted she was right. She wrote: “We are in fact entitled to that information.”
Well, she’s the lawyer. She should know. She’s with the firm of Epstein Becker & Green, the same one that tangled with (and lost to) the Guild several times in the courts and in front of the National Labor Relations Board during a very lengthy and contentious negotiation for a contract at Thomson Reuters. So Townsend responded: “If you would care to cite us case law pertaining to this subject, we’ll take a look at it to determine if that changes our opinion.”
Thus far, she hasn’t responded.
Guild attorneys are confident that Scholastic does not have a right to the survey results.
Salper is very correct about one thing. The surveys did “set forth the items that are most important to the bargaining unit.” And the negotiating committee was directed by the membership to address the workload problem at Scholastic. That’s reflected in our proposals where we call for the hiring of additional help in several key areas. But, because the hiring of new employees would serve no purpose if a reduction in force were to soon follow, we also called for a ban on layoffs for the length of the new contract. And by writing this we’re not leaking any privileged information. We told Salper this over the table.
The negotiating session this Friday, by the way, will be held at the law offices of Epstein Becker & Green. You’ll recall, that was the initial salvo fired by Scholastic’s new law firm. The new attorneys wanted the talks to alternate between The Newspaper Guild headquarters and their law offices. The Guild wanted the discussions held at Scholastic as they were in the last round of talks. Given the overbearing workloads already discussed, we thought we had a logical argument that employees shouldn’t be kept away from the workplace longer than necessary. Scholastic’s attorneys claimed that holding the talks at the workplace somehow cause a disruption and the scheduling of rooms at Scholastic is too much of a problem, anyway. Eventually a compromise was reached and we’re rotating between the Guild, Scholastic and the law offices.