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Free parking offers a lift to the scribes

One of the secondary, but still important elements of the contract agreement struck in December at the Providence Journal — the granting of free parking for fulltime employees — speaks volumes about the new era of goodwill at Rhode Island’s dominant daily.

For at least the last 15 years, ProJo reporters and other employees have had to find their own parking on the street, not always an easy thing in downtown Providence, or pop their vehicles into a private garage. It was a frustrating situation, explains Guild administrator Tim Schick, because cars on the street frequently suffered the toll of vandalism, and reporters on the go would have to pay each time they left and then returned to a garage.

As a result of the December pact between Journal management and the Providence Newspaper Guild, free parking was made available as of March 22 for downtown staffers who work at least 22.5 hours a week (a small group of part-time workers remain without free parking). "It has been a big boost to morale," says Schick. "It has eliminated a longstanding frustration." Asked why management changed its stance on the issue after so many years, he adds, "I don’t know. They were aware it was a concern for employees. I’d like to say they saw the light and did the right thing."

Some smaller and larger dailies in the region, including the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Massachusetts, and the Boston Globe, have long provided free parking to employees at their main offices. Schick says he was unsure how common the practice is in the industry. Perhaps in the spirit of making up for lost time, Journal management went beyond the number of free spaces agreed to in the contract — 150 — to accommodate 165 requests from Guild members for parking. "After the signing of the contract, publisher Howard Sutton said he hoped to build a new relationship with the Guild membership," Guild president John Hill recently told the union newsletter Guild Leader. Since then, the company has been saying all the right things. This is tangible evidence that they mean it. These extra spaces could save 15 more Guild members as much as $40 a week. The company’s action was a very welcome surprise."

In related news:

• Sutton, who was vilified by some Guild supporters during the union’s nearly four-year contract dispute with the newspaper, last week received the annual Humanitarian Award of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center of Denver. According to an account in the ProJo, about 400 people, including some of the state’s leading politicians, turned out for an April 29 recognition event at The Westin Providence. Sutton was cited for his community service with a variety of nonprofit groups.

• Two Guild activists who played important roles in the union’s march to a contract are vying for the union leadership. Hill, who assumed the Guild presidency after the death last year of Bob Jagolinzer, is being challenged by Jordan Malik. Hill, the manager of the ProJo’s Lincoln bureau, claims credit for helping the Guild to get a contract with more aggressive tactics. Malik, a publications clerk in advertising, and an executive committee member since 2002, led the action committee during the dispute, organizing rallies and leafleting of advertisers. Schick says ballots, to be mailed this week, are due back by June 1.

Issue Date: May 7 - 13, 2004
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