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The largest union at the Boston Globe, the Boston Newspaper Guild, has rejected a new contract with the paper's owner, The New York Times Co. The contract would have cut salaries by 10 percent and slashed health benefits, pensions and retirement plans for a saving of $10 million.
The Guild says the Times must do better. But the Times says it is not going back to the bargaining table and, instead, will cut pay for Guild members by 23 percent, effective next week. The Times has dropped its previous threat to shut down the newspaper.
Vote breakdown: Editorial v. business
The vote was close, with 277 members voting against the contract and 265 members voting in favor.
The Guild is made up of 670 members, half from the editorial side of the operation and half from the business side. The classified and advertising side strongly and vocally opposed the deal, whereas the reporters and editors seemed more resigned. The voting was secret, so we don't know how the results broke down, but union members have said the building was more or less split in half, and the outcome supports that idea.
"The talking needs to start, and it needs to start soon"
Some Guild members who voted against the contract say they believe they can negotiate a better deal. And even though Guild President Dan Totten didn't run a campaign to vote against the proposed contract, he made it clear that he was voting against it, because he wants to return to the bargaining table.
Totten reiterated that desire Monday night after the vote. "We hope that the New York Times sees the value of what the Boston Newspaper Guild did," he said. "The threats should no longer continue. The talking needs to start, and it needs to start soon."
But the New York Times Co. isn't talking about continuing negotiations. After the vote, the Times sent a letter to the Guild saying it will cut pay by 23 percent for all union members, effective next week. Boston Globe spokesman Bob Powers told WBUR the paper has "reverted back to what we call the alternative final record proposal."
The 23-percent wage cut threat
The Times is declaring the negotiations are at an impasse after the contract rejection, in which case the company would be legally entitled to cut the wages of union members by the 23 percent threatened. But the union has hinted it would sue, so the disagreement is almost certain to move to the courts and the National Labor Relations Board — meaning this could go on for awhile.
The New York Times began to prepare for this move in May, when both sides were negotiating against a deadline and the threat of shutting down the paper. Before the rejected proposal emerged, the Times put forth what it called its "final record proposal," which means that if the other proposal of 10-percent wage cuts and benefits reduction was rejected, the Times could declare an impasse and impose the last final offer.
Union leaders say the Times Co. didn't negotiate in good faith and therefore this "final proposal" isn't legal — but it would be very hard to stop the company from imposing the wage cut next week.
At the Globe, an uncomfortable morning after
The Globe is going to be thrown into turmoil by this vote. The New York Times threatened the 23-percent pay cut last week, but it doesn't seem as though anyone really believed they wouldn't go back to negotiate another deal instead of implementing such a severe cut, which will shock many people.
Reporter Marcella Bombardieri didn't vote for the new contract because she thought the pay cut was too severe, and now she's very worried about the consequences for both employees and the paper. "Imposing a 23-percent pay cut is going to have a really negative and obvious impact on the product," she said. "People are going to be devastated. They're going to be very distracted and upset, and some of them will have to quit so they can go pay their bills."
Other Globe employees said the wage cut is something they will just have to deal with. The paper had said last week that once the bargaining was over, they would not reopen negotiations because, to quote from a letter from Globe Publisher Steve Ainsley, "our finanical situation is too urgent."
The vote was intensely personal and many Guild members said they were still undecided until the last day. Tuesday is likely to be a very uncomfortable day at the Globe. Many people are upset with the way the union management went about negotiating the deal and, of course, they are extremely upset with the Times Co. for, as one Guild member put it, "being a rotten parent company."
This program aired on June 9, 2009.
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