- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Journal Newspapers laid off reporters and closed two offices to block employees from forming a union, according to a complaint issued by the National Labor Relations Board.

Labor investigators also recommended that the company rehire eight laid-off employees, who had tried to join the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, and reopen company offices in Lanham and Rockville that were closed in December.

The complaint, similar to an indictment in criminal court, was filed last week and accuses the Alexandria-based Journal Newspapers of numerous unfair labor practices. The company publishes editions for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and Northern Virginia.

An NLRB administrative law judge will hear arguments in the case July 21 to determine whether the company should be penalized.

Ryan Phillips, publisher of the company, did not return a telephone call by the Associated Press yesterday seeking comment.

The company laid off 10 reporters, editors and office staff Dec. 2 and later closed the Rockville and Lanham offices, saying the moves were cost-cutting measures. The company now relies heavily on wire service material to publish the Prince George’s and Montgomery Journals.

Most of the employees who were laid off had been trying to organize a local branch of the Newspaper Guild, and had a vote scheduled just weeks after they lost their jobs. The union filed a grievance on their behalf shortly afterward.

“I feel very gratified that the NLRB has agreed with us that we were illegally terminated for union activities,” said Susan Gervasi, a former reporter for the Prince George’s Journal.

The NLRB complaint concluded that Journal management had created the impression that unionizing activities of employees were being monitored and that workers were told their efforts to organize were futile.

The Journal also gave pay raises to staffers in the Alexandria office, but did not extend the increases to editorial staffers in Rockville and Lanham.

The NLRB investigators concluded that the Journal had taken those steps “because the employees of Respondent (the Journal) formed, joined or assisted the union and engaged in concerted activities, and to discourage employees from engaging in these activities.”

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