Newspaper charged with unfair labor practices

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(Host) A union official says he’s filed unfair labor charges against the Brattleboro Reformer after the paper suspended a reporter who’s working to organize a union. Ron Pickering, president of the Vermont AFL-CIO and the local representative for the union some newspaper employees hope to join, said he filed the action.

In letters to the Reformer, Pickering requested that the paper reinstate Reporter Eesha Williams. He also asked that the newspaper voluntarily recognize the PACE union. At a noontime press conference, Pickering said the suspension violates the right to organize.

(Pickering) “The focus needs to be on the fact that a worker has the right to organize a union without being coerced or intimidated. And I sincerely hope that the newspaper does the right thing and allows the employees to organize and let them make their own decision.”

(Host) Eesha Williams claims that he was suspended after asking members of Vermont’s Congressional delegation to write letters supporting the union effort. He said the issues are job security and wages.

(Williams) “We are paid $20,000 a year. Some of us have been here for many years, have children, some of us are single parents. It’s not a livable wage.”

(Host) The Reformer is owned by MediaNews Group, the seventh largest newspaper company in the country. It’s run by New England Newspapers, which also owns the Bennington Banner and three Massachusetts dailies. Charlie Kamen is vice president of Human Resources for MediaNews:

(Kamen) “Until we’re served with a petition and until there’s a formal action indicating that there’s a union, I really have no comment on speculation. And that’s what it is at this point.”

(Host) Kamen said that Williams’ suspension is a disciplinary issue that has nothing to do with the union.

Pickering, the union spokesman, said he had mailed the union petition, along with charges of unfair practices, on Monday.

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