Labor Board Backs Union in Post Dispute

By Frank Ahrens
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, July 13, 2007

A federal labor agency has filed a complaint against The Washington Post alleging that the newspaper has not dealt fairly with its employees over compensation for appearing on Washington Post Radio and for selling advertising for the Onion, a satiric newspaper printed by The Post.

The National Labor Relations Board set a Sept. 26 hearing before an administrative law judge for The Post and the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, which brought the charges last year and earlier this year. The NLRB's June 30 decision was released last week.

At issue is how Post reporters and editors are paid, or not paid, for appearances on Washington Post Radio, which was launched in spring 2006, and whether such compensation should be negotiated by the guild, which represents about 1,200 Post newsroom and commercial employees.

Also at issue is extra work that Post commercial employees have been asked to do in connection with The Post's partnership with the Onion, the weekly based in New York and not owned by The Washington Post Co. The Post began printing, distributing and selling Washington advertising for the Onion in April.

The guild says The Post has refused to talk to it about pay for extra work.

"The Post needs to negotiate with the guild over significant changes in work," said Rick Ehrmann, the guild's representative for The Post. "The imposition of more and more layers and types of work while refusing to bargain over such things as compensation and training for the new work is not only unfair to employees, but illegal."

The Post says appearing on Washington Post Radio is voluntary. But the guild counters that newsroom managers have said that an employee's contributions to The Post's multimedia efforts -- such as writing for and appearing on television and radio -- will be included in the employee's evaluation where raises are concerned.

"The guild's challenge to The Post's multimedia efforts are without merit," said Eric Grant, a Post spokesman. "These efforts are fully consistent with The Post's labor contract with the Newspaper Guild, which allows The Post to involve employees in multimedia work, just as we have done for many years."

The newspaper said it considers doing work for another newspaper -- the Onion -- to be part of its multimedia efforts.

Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Tina Gulland, director of The Post's television and radio projects and named in the NLRB complaint, declined to comment. Post Co. labor lawyer and vice president Patricia Dunn is also named; she did not respond to a request for comment.

Sometimes, reporters and editors are paid a small amount to appear on Washington Post Radio if it is considered extra work -- for example, if they are scheduled to appear before or after normal weekday working hours or on weekends. If they are asked to appear on the radio during the course of their workday, it is generally considered part of their daily work for which they are already paid.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company