The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia

POPE WEEKEND ACCOMODATIONS UPDATE

As you may know, when the Employer announced its plans to deal with the travel restrictions imposed during the Pope’s visit, the Guild informed management that the arrangements were ill-conceived, inadequate and unacceptable. We suggested a number of alternatives that we believed would address the situation in a safe and rational manner. This week, we were optimistic that management was prepared to respond to our concerns when we were advised that the Employer was working to secure a block of rooms at the Marriott so employees forced to stay within the box would have a clean, convenient place to sleep and shower.

Unfortunately, our optimism in management’s rationality was misplaced. Yesterday we were informed that the V.P. of Human Resources canceled the booking without notice to the Guild. By taking this action without notifying us, the Guild was denied the opportunity of offering to assume the cost of the hotel rooms. We suggested that if the expense of providing satisfactory accommodations to the Guild members involved was too much for the Employer to bear, instead of canceling the booking, the Employer should propose alternatives to the Marriott, for example, booking less days, or offering free advertising. We understand when management found merit in our suggestions and contacted the Marriott, the rooms were no longer available.

The very suggestion that the expense of taking steps to assure the safety and health of our members is prohibitive is inconceivable in light of the Publisher’s donating $100,000 to provide help to handicapped visitors who may be adversely impacted by the security arrangements imposed during the festivities. While the Publisher’s charitable contribution is admirable, the Company’s unwillingness to do more for its own employees who are also adversely affected, is not.

The V.P. of Human Resources informed the Guild that the previous arrangements it initially announced were, in his opinion, satisfactory. However, its previous plan to install portable showers was no longer applicable. Instead the Employer’s “accommodations” include providing air mattresses at a cost of $700 for 40 (under $20 per mattress). We believe even if management set up portable showers these arrangements are unsafe, unsanitary and totally unacceptable!

We have directed our counsel to take appropriate steps to determine the legality of the Employer’s actions. If the conversion of the office space for housing is unlawful, unsanitary and unsafe we will authorize counsel to initiate action to stop it. We will keep you informed as soon as we know what steps can be taken to protect you.

In the meantime, although we cannot suggest, or encourage, those of you involved to refuse a direct instruction to report to work, we want you to be aware of your rights as individuals to protect yourselves. If you genuinely believe that being forced to spend 4 nights sleeping on an air mattress in the office building, a facility that has rodent infestation that has been reported to management, without any sanitary facilities to keep clean, etc., you have the right to refuse an order that exposes you to dangerous working conditions that pose a threat to your health and well-being.

We will keep you advised of developments.

In solidarity,
Howard Gensler
Bill Ross
Diane Mastrull
Neal Goldstein, Counsel