A part-time copy editor with the St. Paul Pioneer Press was suspended for three days without pay after attending a peace march in Washington with his church
. He is also no longer allowed to edit stories related to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. (Thanks, Vince)
The case seemed pretty cut and dry. Copy editors should know that, just like reporters, we are required to give up most political activism when we take the job. And it's not as if this is an employer that has been shy on the issue. It's the same paper that suspended two reporters for attending a Vote for Change concert with R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen a year ago.
But a story
about the copy editor's punishment in the City Pages raised some questions.
First, the Guild rep said he was flummoxed:
"He was exercising his beliefs -- religious, as well as social and moral -- and the paper is saying he can't do that. And he's a part-time copy editor, for Christ's sake. I was speechless when I heard this."
Shouldn't this policy be clearly stated in an employee handbook, common knowledge?
Granted, a Guild rep might be prone to piling on. But even if you ignore that quote, what about this one from editor Thom Fladung, whom the paper paraphrases as saying he has no problem with employees participating in peace marches:
"The problem comes in when the employee doesn't communicate with us ahead of time. I have no intention of telling people what to do in their private lives."
What? So the activity was just fine, but the problem was the lack of permission? And if it's OK for a "peace march," what about a "war protest"? (What's the difference?)
And if a "war protest" is OK, what about a "protest concert"? The Vote for Change debacle certainly wasn't a permission problem. The paper told employees beforehand that they weren't allowed to go. (Two reporters went anyway and were suspended. The Guild filed a grievance, and the parties settled, with terms kept confidential.)
One last huh?
: If the editor wouldn't have cared if he'd gone as long as he'd gotten permission, why is he no longer allowed to read Iraq stories?
If I worked at the Pioneer Press, I'd be pretty confused right now.