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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

PERS issue simmers

Grievance update: Hello ... is anyone there?

Disgruntled writers at The Oregonian have rejected an apology by a management member for taking PERS away without negotiation. The labor-management disagreement at the state's leading news organ spilled over into a public spat last week as reported by The Oregonion.

According to anonymous sources, Managing Editor Jack Hart circulated a memo attempting to put the matter to rest. The Oregonion has obtained a copy of the internal document which was not intended for public disclosure.

According to Hart: "This PERS fiasco is much ado about nothing. If any mistake was made, it is Caldwell's, not mine. He told us that Governor Kulongoski and the Legislature had taken care of PERS last session. So - he was off-base. I apologize if any employees were offended by Caldwell's wrong call, and trust they will now see that it was just another honest mistake." He urged the writers to "get over it," instructing that "Since this really about usage, it is a matter of style, not substance. You should go talk to Bottomly."

In an email response to The Oregonion, Hart wrote that "management considers this issue as officially contained," adding "As far as I'm concerned, it's over." He explained that little risk remains, since a "Chinese Wall" exists between The Oregonian's style and its substance.

But that might not be good enough for the workers. One senior reporter confided that writers are united, and that copywriters have pledged solidarity. At a gathering of employees at a popular after-hours watering hole that included representatives of Our Oregon, speakers derided Hart's efforts to quell the brouhaha via a one-page memo as "lame" and "a nothingburger". They joked about senior editors' recent hospitalization for Multiple-Standard Syndrome, saying "They just want to be first in line to PHART."

According to one of the writers, "It's unfair to have our PERS jacked around like this. Is management ever going to sit down with us and work this out? The Oregonian used to value collaborative decision-making, and it's too simplistic to pawn off the reversal on some internal management disorder." An Our Oregon spokesperson commented, "Ain't it a shame?"

The Oregonian is currently a non-union employer.

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