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The brinksmanship between the Boston Globe’s largest union, the Boston Newspaper Guild, and the paper's owner, The New York Times Co., is intensifying in advance of Monday’s vote by union members on whether to agree to a contract proposed by the company that cuts $10 million in pay and benefits.
The Times' efforts to save $20 million from all Globe unions hinge on the Guild vote Monday.
"It’s been a really, really difficult decision to reach," said reporter Beth Daley, who is also a union representative. She's going to vote no.
"I think the union would like to go back to the negotiating table and fight for some of the extraordinarily expensive things we’re giving up for absolutely free," she said. "Lifetime job guarantees, a pension, 401K contributions. These are incredibly expensive items that we are giving away for free."
The three other major unions negotiating with the company came to tentative agreements on contracts — the Guild didn’t. It only presented the company’s offer. Two unions have approved their deals, the third votes Sunday.
The Guild, which has 680 employees in both the editorial and business sides, is not campaigning for its members to vote yes. In a letter to membership, the Guild said the Times is bullying and negotiating at gunpoint.
"It's a very dangerous, confrontational game that's being played here," said Gary Chaison, a labor-relations professor at Clark University.
"I think what we have in the Boston Globe situation is the leadership presenting it to its members halfheartedly, and saying, 'Agree to it if you want, it’s your own call,' " Chaison said. "And by not having an endorsement of it, the membership are going to look at it more critically and I suspect there’s a good chance of its rejection."
The ones who will most likely reject it are on the business side. One Guild member who feared giving his name because he thought he might be fired, said he and his colleagues in classified and advertising were universally against it. He said the company is trying to breach a contract and he doesn’t believe The New York Times is losing $85 million a year on the Globe.
Reporter Michael Paulson said the newsroom is more open to the proposal. Still Paulson was unsure how he’ll vote.
"I think for most of us there’s a balancing between wanting to be sane and wanting to be courageous," he said. "The sane part of me says, of course I need to vote yes because every industry is having cutbacks, newspapers across the country are taking pay cuts similar to this. The courageous part of me says, I don’t want to be bullied and I don’t want to be lied to."
The New York Times and Boston Globe management refused to comment for this story. But in a not-so-subtle move to encourage Guild members to ratify the contract, publisher Steve Ainsley wrote a memo earlier this week that said if the proposal is voted down, the company will go back to its final offer — a 23-percent pay cut.
Paulson said that could result in a lawsuit.
"The fear is that the company will declare negotiations have failed, and simply impose the 23-percent pay cut, in which case the Guild would sue and we’d be in for a miserable summer and we’d also be in for unpleasant litigation."
Already a lot of employees are disillusioned with the Globe and some are leaving for other jobs, including two editors. The one thing that hasn’t resurfaced is the New York Times’ threat to close the paper, which is what began these contentious union negotiations two months ago.
This program aired on June 5, 2009.
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