Will Globe Union “Just Say No”?

New York Times Co. to Guild: Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?

New York Times Co. to Guild: "Do you feel lucky? Well do ya, punk?"

On Monday, the Boston Globe Newspaper Guild will vote yes or no on a series of deep cuts to its contract with the New York Times Co., which is seeking $10 million in bottomline savings from the Guild.  Just a couple of weeks ago, it look as if a “yes” vote was a no-brainer for the union members.

However, that has changed.  The Guild leadership has refused to endorse the cuts – which include heavy losses in benefits and salaries.  And many members have been actively advocating that the close to 700 members give the deal the thumbs down.

In response the New York Times Co. – owners of the Boston Globe – are rolling out the threat to close the newspaper once again.  Boston Phoenix Media Reporter Adam Reilly had this quote from NYTimes spokeswoman Catherine Mathis on his blog Don’t Quote Me:

“Closure is a very real path for the Company to take. We have said that we need to achieve $20 million in savings from our unions in Boston. At the end of the ratification process (the drivers vote on Sunday and the Guild votes on Monday), we need to have secured the full amount. With the Guild we have two different paths to achieve savings of $10 million. One, ratification of the contract. Two, implementation of a 23% wage reduction. The Guild seems to believe it can reject the contract, prevent implementation and thereby force further negotiation. That’s not right. Time is of the essence.”

Many of the Guild members believe the New York Times Co. is bluffing when it comes to closure.  Boston Globe Reporter Brian Mooney thinks a Globe closure would even bankrupt the parent company.  Mooney – in a rather mean-spirited written response to Dan Kennedy on his blog Media Nation – recently wrote:

“I think we’ve put to bed the notion that they can afford to make good on that threat [of shutting down the newspaper], because the Times Company’s own finances are so fragile, the cost of closing us would wreck the parent company.”

The 23 percent pay cut, however, is another matter.  No doubt the New York Times Co. would make good on its threat to immediately slash salaries nearly a quarter (a draconian and punitive measure).  And this, of course, would force the Guild to sue them for breach of contract.

It would get ugly.

I’m a former member of the Newspaper Guild – and helped bring Guild representation to the Telegram & Gazette in Worcester (another New York Times Co. property).  Personally, I believe the cuts being forced on the unions are extremely deep considering the fact that management has not taken as big a hit.  In fact, Mooney says that Globe executives received increases in the company match for their 401(k) accounts and only five percent salary cuts.

So how will the Guild vote on Monday?  There’s no way to say for sure.  The no votes seem to be growing – so no matter which way it goes it will probably be a close vote.  I’m starting to believe that Mooney and other Guild members might be right about the New York Times Co. bluffing about a closure.  But do they want to force the company’s hand and have their salaries cut by 23 percent?

We’ll find out on Monday.

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