Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Projo.com Goes Union, Settlement Avoids Ruling

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Projo.com Goes Union, Settlement Avoids Ruling

Article excerpt

A four-year labor squabble ends as the Providence Journal agrees that online and print-side workers are all the same

IN A SURPRISE labor development, the Providence (R.I.) Journal and the local Newspaper Guild have reached an agreement that allows the union to represent the employees of the paper's online service, projo.com.

The settlement ends a protracted struggle between the newspaper and its Web site workers and a case pending before the National Labor Relations Board. That NLRB case has been closely watched by other newspapers because of its potential to set a precedent clarifying the status of online employees.

The issue is a contentious one throughout the industry where many newspaper companies claim -- as the Journal previously did -- that employees of news Web sites are not the same as employees of the print newsroom. The Providence newspaper has now done a 180-degree turn as nine projo.com workers -- seven editorial and two advertising -- come under union jurisdiction for salary, benefits and work rules.

The change in management's thinking, according to John Granatino, director of electronic publishing, was caused by the Internet's rapidly increasing importance as a distribution vehicle for news and advertising.

Granatino said the explosion of the Internet as a news resource meant that projo.com needed to be closer to the traditional newsroom. He said the newspaper company now has a "different goal than when we started out" for projo.com's operation. "We want to bring things together." he explained.

Tim Schick, executive director of the Providence Newspaper Guild, said the union was approached by newspaper management in mid-June with a settlement offer.

"In some ways, we're disappointed that there's not an official ruling. But on the other hand, a settlement is always preferable to litigation," said Schick, who noted that negotiations took place after the newspaper made its settlement offer. …

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