Daily Archives: February 9, 2008

Saturday…The $7 million disclosure v. court rules, labor troubles at Gannett’s Honolulu Advertiser

After the Advertiser reported yesterday on attorney John Goeman’s disclosure of the $7 million settlement in a high-profile suit against Kamehameha Schools, one reader wondered about the ethics of the disclosure:

I think Goemans could be in trouble because even though he says he was not a party to the settlement and thus could disclose the confidential amount, he may have breached an ethical duty to his client under Hawaii Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 1.6 which prohibits you from talking about the details of a client’s case.

The rule contains a broad confidentiality requirement (“A lawyer shall not reveal information relating to representation of a client unless the client consents after consultation…) with several exceptions, most dealing with preventing or reporting criminal acts or fraud. The rule applies to information about a lawyer’s clients and former clients.

Commentary published with the rule explains, in part:

The confidentiality rule applies not merely to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source. A lawyer may not disclose such information except as authorized or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

The Star-Bulletin’s Ninu Wu reported yesterday on the apparent breakdown in negotiations between Gannett’s Honolulu Advertiser and its six unions.

In a bargaining update, the Hawaii Newspaper and Printing Trades Council called a letter from Mike Cusato, Advertiser Senior Vice-President for operations, “the kind of union busting tactic that got Gannett into trouble in Detroit in 1995.” According to the update, union and company negotiators did not meet between June 27 and November 6, 2007, and other meetings were brief and focused on extending the existing contract during continued negotiations.

John Jaske, who recently retired as Gannett’s top labor lawyer, put the Jan. 25th final offer on the table without accurate premium information. The Company supplied the information later in the meeting.

Jaske did not state any economic reason the company needs to hold the line on wages and shift more healthcare costs to union members. The only reason he offered was that Gannett employees at other Gannett newspapers have to pay more for their health insurance. He misses the point: We live and work in Hawaii. It costs more to live here than in other Gannett towns.

Cusato writes that other workers in Hawaii earn less for comparable jobs and have to pay more for their health insurance. That may or may not be true. He misses the point: We work at the Honolulu Advertiser, the biggest and richest newspaper in Hawaii.

The union’s say the company offer includes substantially higher health care premiums and co-pays, along with minimal wage increases that do not come close to keeping up with Honolulu’s recent rate of inflation.

The unions say that Gannett has simply failed to bargain at all, instead presenting its “final offer” without much in the way of preliminaries, and has threatened to unilaterally impose it at the end of the month. The unions are holding a joint meeting of their members on Sunday, February 17.

According to the union update: “We are not at impasse yet. Impasse is a legal term. To get to impasse, the parties have to have bargained in good faith. The Advertiser simply has not bargained at all.”

Hmmmm. That doesn’t sound good. As I recall, the Advertiser is the only remaining fully unionized Gannett newspaper, but has always made enough money for Gannett to avoid stirring up a labor fight. Could this be the year that the company picks that fight?

For weekend browsing, a reader suggested this web sight tracing abandoned and little-known airfields in Hawaii.