How tense is the Boston Globe newsroom these days? Mighty tense indeed, judging from the response by political reporter Brian Mooney (left) to an e-mail sent Tuesday by business reporter Rob Gavin to members of the Boston Newspaper Guild. The e-mails were obtained from an unimpeachable source.
Next Monday, members of the Newspaper Guild vote on whether to accept a contract revision, negotiated by New York Times Co. management and the Guild, and presented to the membership without a Guild recommendation. The deal calls for a pay cut of about 10 percent as well as an end to lifetime job guarantees for about 190 employees.
On Tuesday at 4:33 p.m., Gavin sent the following e-mail to Guild members:
Rob Gavin in the newsroom here. For a story in advance of the Guild contract vote, i’m trying to do a poll of sentiment among Guild members.
If you’re a guild member, and would be willing to participate, please respond to this email with:
yes (meaning you plan to vote for contract)…
no (meaning you plan to vote against the contract..
All responses will be kept confidential by me, not shared with anyone else, and deleted as soon as I tally them. I’ll only publish the results if I get a large enough sample. Of course, as pollsters say, this would only be a snapshot of voter sentiment at this particular time, and not necessarily how people might actually vote on Monday. I know this is sensitive, but I figured it’s worth a try. If you think you can help me, please respond (be careful to avoid the respond to all) by end to the day tomorrow. If not, no problem. I understand.
Less than a half-hour later, Mooney sent the following response, also to everyone in the Guild:
You’ve got to be kidding, Rob.
Your time would be better spent writing a real story about the difference in the cuts the Times Co. wants the Guild members to take compared to the mild cuts and, in some cases, actual increases in fringe benefits for the managers and other exempts. I’m voting ‘no’ because that’s unfair.
Here’s another story idea. Why don’t you examine whether the Times Co. can really make good on its threat to shut down the Globe without bankrupting the New York Times Co.? According to their SEC filing, it cost $31 million to close Billerica, with a fraction of the employees we have here at Morrissey Boulevard. To pay all the severance obligations of the 1,400 union employees (plus the managers) would bankrupt the parent company, it’s pretty clear. The Times has something like $34 million in unencumbered cash and cannot borrow money (without going to Mexico and paying usurious 14-percent interest rates).
If they shut the Globe, it would be a murder-suicide.
Vote “No” next Monday.
Brian C. Mooney
It’s hard to know exactly what will happen if the Guild votes the proposal down. Though management has threatened to impose a 23 percent pay cut unilaterally, it no longer appears to be threatening to shut the Globe down.
In a recent interview with Boston magazine, Guild president Dan Totten sounds like he’s itching for his members to vote “no” and re-open negotiations, telling reporter Jason Schwartz: “What’s been put before us is completely unacceptable. And I think people are ready, willing, and able to do something on that matter.”
In less than a week, we’ll have a better idea of where the Globe goes from here.
File photo of Mooney (cc) 2007 by Dan Kennedy. Some rights reserved. See Creative Commons terms in left-hand rail.