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Register-Guard labor practices deemed unfair



A federal administrative law judge found the publisher of The Register-Guard in violation of labor laws Tuesday, stemming from the management’s treatment of employees and refusal to bargain with a local union.

Judge Albert A. Metz found that the newspaper’s management violated the National Labor Relations Act in attempting to stop the employees from organizing, “creating an impression of surveillance,” wrongful dismissal and providing incentives for employees to not support organizing efforts.

“We continue to believe the unfair labor practice charges filed by the teamsters are unfounded and we intend to ask the National Labor Relations Board to dismiss the charges,” Register-Guard director of Human Resources Cynthia Walden read from a prepared statement written by General Manager Fletcher Little.

In his finding, Metz singled out the Register-Guard’s top executive for criticism.

“The Respondent’s highest ranking official, publisher Tony Baker, was shown to have a direct part in some of the unlawful activity,” the decision read.

The NLRB will appear in U.S. District Court in Eugene today to seek an injunction against the publication, according to a Teamsters Local 206 statement. As the U.S. government agency responsible for enforcing federal labor laws, the board claims that Register-Guard management must be held accountable by the court.

“Upon information and belief, unless this Court immediately restrains the … unfair labor practices, Respondent will continue its disdainful and mocking treatment of the Act and the harmful effects of its unlawful acts will be reinforced with time, with the result that Respondent will successfully thwart the enforcement of important provisions of the Act and of the public policy underlying it…” the NLRB stated in its petition seeking an injunction.

The Judge ordered Register-Guard management to accept Teamsters Local 206 as the representative unit for the distribution department without holding an election.

“He’s basically saying the company’s illegal activities would make any election [for representation] unfair,” said Lance Robertson, a Register-Guard reporter and the Eugene Newspaper Guild’s chief bargainer.

“The NLRB hardly ever seeks an injunction like this,” teamsters’ representative Stefan Ostrach said. “They only do it when they find really flagrant violations of the law. It’s really too bad that the third generation has chosen to smear the good name of the Baker family by abusing the rights of their employees.”

Disputes between the newspaper’s management and employees are nothing new.

The paper’s last contract with its employees expired May 1, 1999. And recent negotiation attempts have produced little progress, Eugene Newspaper Guild president Suzi Prozanski said in February.

The guild requested that subscribers cancel their newspapers for a few days prior to contract negotiations in February. During that week, dummy-pages were placed on newspapers in distribution boxes throughout town. “Contract Now” was typed in thick black letters over the Register-Guard masthead, and “Local Newspaper Gets Greedy” was the lead story on the mock front page.

Robertson said that with the decision, Metz acknowledged that the newspaper’s owners have a real anti-union attitude.

“The judge has confirmed a lot of what we’ve been trying to tell the community for the last five years.” Robertson said.

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