Boston Globe Unionized Employees Rally to Save Their Publication Jobs
BOSTON/Faneuil Hall - Over 300 unionized Boston Globe employees, family members and allies held a lunchtime rally outside Faneuil Hall today to drum up local support for their struggle to "save the Boston Globe." The event was organized by the Boston Newspaper Guild - The Newspaper Guild/Communication Workers of America Local 31245 - the Globe's main union.
At issue is the New York Times' standing threat to close down the Boston Globe on May 1st if Globe unions do not agree to give back $20 million in wages and benefits. The Times claims that it cannot keep the Globe open without that amount of money. Many of the 14 speakers at the event touched on their belief that the Times demand is unfair and that management should think first about cutting their own salary and benefits package before cutting large numbers of jobs at the Globe or actually closing the publication forever.
Boston Newspaper Guild president Daniel Totten set a strident tone at the beginning of the rally, "The New York Times, as you know, has threatened to shut down the Boston Globe. That threat is unacceptable. The Boston Newspaper Guild, along with all the Globe's workers, is intent on saving the Boston Globe."
Dorothy Clark, news copy desk editor at the Globe, then laid out what was at stake for the newspaper's hundreds of workers, "From reporters and editors to those who work in the business office at our plant, to workers in production, to our press operators, to those in the mailroom, to truck drivers, and even those who aren't in our unions, such as the cafeteria workers, and janitorial employees. And our advertisers. We need the Globe. We have careers there. Vocations. Jobs. We participate in a marketplace and contribute to the economy on a number of levels. This city, this region, we people cannot afford the collapse that the disappearance of the Globe would surely bring about."
Specifics of the Globe workers grievance against the New York Times Company were detailed at length by Globe reporter Brian Mooney, "The Globe's owner, the New York Times, now tells us, the employees who put the paper out everyday - and you, our readers and advertisers who make it possible - that they'll shut down this great institution if the Globe's unions don't give back $20 million in wages and benefits.
"We're not the reason the newspaper business is failing. But we're willing to do our part to cure it. For the Newspaper Guild, whose members haven't received a raise in more than 3 years, the New York Times Company wants additional concessions amounting to 22 3/4% of what we receive now. That's bad. But what's worse is the hypocrisy and the unfairness at work here.
"We'll all have to sacrifice to save the paper," Mooney continued. "We know that. But what contribution to the cause has the Times top management made thus far? Non-union employees - mostly managers - are taking a temporary 5 percent pay cut with 2 weeks off. They take a furlough, and they want us to take a 23 percent bullet. Hey, that's not fair. Shame on the New York Times Company.
"The Times will tell you that top executives have not had a raise in more than 2 years. It's not true. Read the fine print of the company's proxy statement, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission last month. You'll see that the Times publisher, the CEO and some other senior execs received 'discretionary bonuses' on top of their generous compensation package - which by the way takes 21 pages of a 52 page report to explain. It's fascinating reading. On page 34 it say 'the directors were recognizing the impact of a multi-year salary freeze.' And they approved these one-time bonuses. The amount is 3 1/2% of their pay.
"So the company was losing money. They got a raise. The rest of us got the donut. Hey, that's not fair. Shame on the New York Times Company. The discretionary bonuses, by the way, are on top of other six-figure bonuses that they received for achieving their personal corporate goals. At the time the company was losing money.
"The Times wants to end company contributions to our 401K plan, and freeze the employee pension plan. What about the executives? They're piling up benefits under 3 - count 'em - 3 different plans. Publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. has accumulated benefits that now total about $9 million.
"They'll get millions," Mooney concluded. "We'll get Social Security. That's not fair."
Robert Haynes, president of the Mass. AFL-CIO - the state labor federation - put the blame for the Globe workers' situation squarely on management's shoulders, "We have unions in this country because we have management like the New York Times Company. Can you all imagine how outrageous it is, in this day and age, to take somebody's pension away from them. To take somebody's health care away from them. To take somebody's wages away from them. How 'bout figuring out how to run this newspaper? How 'bout you getting a little bit smarter about the work you need to do? How 'bout the New York Times sacrificing a little bit?
"Just blackmail that's all it is. They know how bad times are. Let's open up the books. Let's see what kind of reserves they have. Let's see what kind of compensation packages they have. Let's see the millions and millions that Sulzberger has.
"Danny Totten and these workers behind me - they're willing to sacrifice. Like every worker in this country. They'll sacrifice in hard times. They'll give back. They'll share. They keep an economic enterprise going.
"None of it. None of this problem is because union workers are inefficient. Or don't care. And I'm proud of the work that they produce.
"Here's what the problem is in the United States of America: it's a lack of ethics. it's a lack of good management. It's a lack of good judgement. It's about greed. That's the problem that we have in the United States of America now. Greed."
Other speakers at the event included Boston City Council president Michael Ross, Boston City Councilor Charles Yancey, Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune journalist David Jackson, Miko Nissinen of the Boston Ballet, and a number of other Globe employees.
As the speeches came to a close, the Boston Newspaper Guild asked supporters to sign a petition they circulated through the crowd, and to stay up-to-date on the latest news on their efforts to win a better deal from the New York Times Company at the bargaining table via their website.
Robert Powers, Globe vice-president of Communications and Public Affairs, told Open Media Boston this afternoon that Globe management declined to comment on the rally.