Maybe this is moot, given that Boston Globe spokesman Robert Powers now says the company won’t file the paperwork necessary to start a 60-day process aimed at closing the paper. But the question arose earlier today as to whether management had really threatened to close the paper in 30 days if it didn’t win $20 million in union concessions.
That’s certainly the way many people interpreted it. When I opened our front door early this morning, it was with the expectation that the Globe might not be there. Late last week, when the first deadline passed, Adam Gaffin of Universal Hub went so far as to post a photo of the Globe on his walkway to prove the paper was still around. And as recently as Saturday, the Globe itself put it this way:
Last night’s announcement extends a grueling month of negotiations and uncertainty that began in early April when the Times Co. called together leaders of the paper’s 13 unions and told them it would shutter the Globe unless it gained $20 million in concessions by May 1.
The deadline was then extended two days after an accounting error was revealed.
Earlier today a colleague told me it was always understood that the Times Co. wouldn’t actually close the Globe after 30 days, but, rather, would merely begin the process of closing it. I think that’s Clintonesque. The Times Co., by all appearances, was ready to pay the price of ignoring the federally mandated 60-day shutdown period. If union leaders had known from the beginning that they really had 90 days, they wouldn’t have entered into frantic negotiations last week and over the weekend.
In any case, the latest statement from Powers makes it appear that all sides may be very close to a final agreement — or that management thinks it’s hit upon a plan to accomplish its goals without the consent of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the one union that is still holding out. I certainly hope this is just about over. It’s unfair to Globe staffers, and to the community, to have to go through all of this again in two months.
What could management have in mind? The Boston Phoenix’s Adam Reilly has some pretty interesting material suggesting that the lifetime contracts could be voided “[i]n the event of a dramatic and apparently irreversible downturn in the Globe’s business.” That event now appears to be upon us. Call it the nuclear option — management-employee relations would never be the same.
Finally, former Globe columnist David Warsh has a fascinating look back at how and why the Taylor family decided to sell to the New York Times Co. in 1993, as well as an analysis of subsequent events.