‘Strength in Bargaining’ Still, When Deals ‘Done Fairly’

Joe Strupp of Editor & Publisher (7/21/09) is reporting that newspaper union representatives claim a victory of sorts in the Boston Newspaper Guild’s refusal to accept a deal that “called for smaller benefit cuts and a furlough, but a higher 8.3 percent salary reduction.” The Boston Globe eventually agreed instead to “a 5.94 percent salary cut, a one-week furlough, a pension freeze and healthcare cost increase.”

Strupp quotes Guild president Bernie Lunzer saying the result “does demonstrate that there is strength in bargaining,” that “people can push back” and they “are correct now to question what management is doing, to pursue more control over their futures”:

Boston is among the few guild locals in the past year to reject contracts that called for concessions. In many cases, from the Denver Post to the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader, guild members have approved furloughs, pay cuts and various benefit reductions when management asked….

“People will take concessions and take less when they believe it is being done fairly,” says Lunzer. “There is not a [guild contract] situation out there that isn’t a difficult one.”

But Boston was somewhat different in that the guild rejected an initial offer even amid threats of a shutdown and sale of the paper, a sale that appears inevitable. In recent weeks, guild locals at the Times Union in Albany, N.Y., and the Indianapolis Star have also rejected contract proposals. But leaders in both of those units believe new contracts will be approved.

On the subject of negotiations “being done fairly,” Lunzer goes into details when describing how the “New York Times Company, which owns the Globe, used the controversial lifetime job guarantees of some 170 guild members as an unfair issue in the recent bargaining.” While “the guild agreed to give up that protection in this latest agreement,” Lunzer asserts that “the issue was exploited by New York Times management… to cause divisiveness.”

Listen to the FAIR radio show CounterSpin: Jonathan Tasini on the Boston Globe/GM (6/12/09).