Brian Mooney responds

Brian Mooney has e-mailed a response to the item I posted earlier today. I am publishing it here in full with his permission.

You’ve completely misrepresented the position of those of us who are arguing for a “no” vote and done it in a demeaning, insulting manner. We understand a lot better than you do the state of the newspaper industry in general and the Globe in particular. We have said repeatedly and publicly that we are willing to absorb our share of the cuts to help the paper through this period which we hope is a transition to a multi-media platform.

And I personally resent your ill-informed opinion about what the membership should do. You don’t know what you’re talking about and until you do, you should keep your mouth shut.

This is not some mindless, nihilistic, send-’em-a-message exercise. It’s a painful decision for everyone in the Guild. The best-case scenario is bad, and we all know it. The Times Co. will impose Wal-Mart-like employment conditions here if it can get away with it.

Because you do not seem to have a grasp of any actual facts, I’ll try to explain some to you.

The major issues are fairness and bad-faith bargaining.

Both of the company’s ultimatums amount to $10 million a year — the equivalent of a permanent 23-percent reduction in our wages, albeit by dramatically different methods. At the same time, managers and other exempts are taking a temporary 5-percent cut. While the company wants to reduce from 3 percent to zero the maximum match for union members’ 401k contributions, managers this year received an increase in their 401k match from 3 percent to 5 percent. While the company wants to dramatically reduce its contribution to our health insurance fund, which would precipitate a $1,000 per year increase in premiums paid by Guild members, the company has provided managers enhanced health and dental coverage and is paying most of the increase in cost. While the company wants to freeze Guild members’ pensions, it is reducing managers pensions by only one-third.

In each of those cases, exempt employees already enjoy significantly better compensation and benefits than Guild members.

The publisher, Steve Ainsley, has claimed that managers and other exempts have absorbed the equivalent of a 16-percent loss in salary and bonuses since last year but has not produced any backup information to support it. That’s probably because the numbers can’t possibly add up to that. If they’re taking a 5-percent pay cut, does that mean they received, on average, an 11-percent bonus for 2008, a year in which the Globe lost $50 million? I doubt it.

But even if the figure is accurate — and no one believes it — the exempts are taking a 16-percent hit and the Guild members are taking a 23-percent whack.

Never mind that the Times itself continues to inch closer to the precipice of bankruptcy with a series of colossal business blunders and an unwillingness to take more serious steps to stop the bleeding in its own business, which includes the International Herald Tribune. The IHT has always lost money and, in the era of the Internet, is an anachronism and in this economy is probably losing record amounts. The Times Co. says it does not disclose the financial performance of its component parts, but we know that’s not true. They made sure the amount of Globe losses appeared on the paper’s front page and every other media outlet as part of their negotiating strategy.

Yet the Times Co. said it was prepared to shut down the Boston Globe, which has long served a distinctive community, before it would shut down the IHT, the precious “global edition of the New York Times,” an expensive hood ornament indeed.

During the course of negotiations, the company has repeatedly engaged in punitive, bad-faith bargaining and basically committed an act of corporate terrorism with its threat to close the paper. They have traumatized their own employees, their employees’ families, and the wider community that cares about and depends on this newspaper.

I think we’ve put to bed the notion that they can afford to make good on that threat, because the Times Company’s own finances are so fragile, the cost of closing us would wreck the parent company. But the damage is done.

Finally, the lifetime job security issue is a red herring promoted by the Times Co. Your reliance on it to support your threadbare position betrays your ignorance. Many of us, maybe most, with so-called lifetime job security would get rid of it, and if the company wants to get rid of it, they can go to binding arbitration under the terms of our contract. Their problem is that they have publicly stated the monetary value to the company of eliminating the language is zero. Zero.

Brian C. Mooney
Staff reporter
The Boston Globe

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52 thoughts on “Brian Mooney responds

  1. NewsHound

    Union should take $10 million pay cut in exchange for $10 million of stock in New York Times Co., and pledge from officers that economics will move to salvation mode in the executive and management areas.

  2. mike_b1

    T, you seem to forget, in this instance top management owns the company. And you can't fire the owner.

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