Boston Newspaper Guild rips Times Co. bonuses

The following e-mail, dated Thursday, was sent to members of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the largest union at the Boston Globe. Media Nation obtained a copy of the e-mail from a confidential, reliable source. Click here for background. (As you will see if you click on the link to Editor & Publisher below, the Guild was not entirely accurate in describing the compensation packages of Times Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger and president Janet Robinson.)

Hi folks,

As you may have heard, the NY Times recently awarded its top two executives more than $10 million in stocks and bonuses for their performance in 2009, a year that for most of us in the Boston Newspaper Guild was a disaster. Two people, Janet Robinson and Arthur Sulzberger, received stocks and stock options equal to the pay and benefit cuts that they demanded from our whole union under threat of closing the Boston Globe for good. We want the New York Times leadership to know that we’re angry and disgusted by their greed and hypocrisy.

Please take a look at the attached letter of protest as well as the link to news coverage of their big pay day. If you agree that it’s wrong and you want to send a message, please email us that you are willing to have your name attached to the letter.

We face contract negotiations with the New York Times company later this year and we want them to know well in advance that, if they can afford to pay executives so much, we expect similar generosity.

http://www.editorandpublisher.com/eandp/news/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1004074880

Dear Arthur and Janet,

We were astonished to learn that the two of you received more than $10 million in stock awards and options in 2009. During the year for which you were so richly rewarded, the 600 members of the Boston Newspaper Guild gave back almost the same amount in pay and benefit reductions — $10 million, to be exact — after you threatened to close our newspaper, lay off hundreds of people, and strip Massachusetts of its largest newspaper.

Previously, New York Times officials told us that we needed to accept pay cuts and unpaid days off along with higher health costs, the elimination of our retirement programs and other benefit reductions in order to save the Boston Globe. But the recent SEC filings make it look like almost all of our sacrifices went to pay the two of you. For most of us up here at your newspaper in Boston, 2009 was financially disastrous, as Guild members were forced to move to cheaper housing, take second jobs, scrap vacations and make other drastic measures to offset more than a 15 percent reduction in our pay and benefits. We made these sacrifices under duress, yes, but also because we understood that the Globe faced real financial challenges in an economic downturn and a dramatically changing marketplace. We did it because we care deeply about our newspaper, its mission, and the critical role it serves in our region and our nation. And we did it with an expectation that our sacrifices would be shared across the company.

The two of you gave us the impression that you understood all that when you visited the Globe last winter. You even personally thanked us for giving up so much for the greater good. Now we learn that, all the while, you were in line for astronomical bonuses over and above your million dollar salaries. Ms. Robinson’s compensation rose 32 percent last year; Mr. Sulzberger’s overall pay more than doubled. While you’ve stopped contributing to our modest retirement plans, the value of your own pensions has increased sharply.

Needless to say, we are insulted, but we also feel betrayed that you would reap such profits at a time when so many of your employees have lost so much.

Our nation’s history is filled with corporate executives who profited handily by cutting workers’ salaries and eliminating jobs. But few of those figures helmed newspapers that have done eloquent, important work in revealing and condemning such practices. For this reason, we are hopeful — as both shareholders and employees — that you will govern this company with morality and a basic sense of fairness.

We have appealed to you once before this year about the Times’ seemingly excessive largesse to its executives in such troubled times. The Times Co. handed out more than $500,000 in cash bonuses to the Boston Globe’s publisher [Steven Ainsley] on his retirement — just as the employees he left behind were forced to schedule eight unpaid days off. We hope that, this time, you will give us the courtesy of a reply and an explanation.

Now that the Times has shown it can afford to lavish so much on a few top executives, we expect our pay and benefit cuts will be restored in the coming months. We look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Members of the Boston Newspaper Guild

13 thoughts on “Boston Newspaper Guild rips Times Co. bonuses

  1. B.A. DuBois

    The New York Times… liberal when it comes to spending other people’s money…. when it comes to paying their own workers, eh, not so much…

  2. Bob Gardner

    I only wonder why it took the guild so long to figure this out. They should have gone public with a demand that executives not get bonuses– and done this during the give-back negotiations.

  3. BP Myers

    @Bob said: They should have gone public with a demand that executives not get bonuses– and done this during the give-back negotiations.

    I can’t imagine that it even crossed their minds, given the gloom and doom financial picture that the Times Co. painted at the time, that they would even have money to give themselves bonuses.

    It is ironic, though, that the hard-as-nails and just as cynical fourth estate didn’t see this coming. In retrospect, that the Times wouldn’t open their books during negotiations is all revealing.

  4. L.K. Collins

    Not defending Sluzberger and Robinson; their greed is extraordinary.

    But we, as critics, need to understand that the New York Times Co. is more than just the NYT and The Globe.

  5. Pete Bartolik

    Somebody should correlate the increase in exec pensions and the decrease/elimination of employee pensions over the past 10 years.

  6. L.K. Collins

    Times Co. sold a fair number of properties over the past few years. These salaries are reflective of the company of the past NYT accounting year.

  7. John Bohn

    Please keep in mind that in addition to the $10 million in give backs from current Boston Globe union employees, many of us gave significantly more to Arthur and Janet during 2009. Some of us gave up 100% of our pay and benefits!
    On March 26th of 2009, my 16 year career as a staff photographer with the Boston Globe came to a crashing end. No notice, no severance. They actually informed me of my being laid off via a cell phone call while I was on vacation!

  8. LFNeilson

    Beyond the wage reductions and personnel cutbacks is the reduction of news coverage. Foreign bureaus? Washington coverage? Suburban coverage? Spotlight team? etc., etc. Shadows, memories. Such coverage is supposed to be the “stuff” of a good newspaper, and of a healthy democracy. I don’t understand how R&S can take such bonuses without holding one hand behind their back with crossed fingers.

  9. L.K. Collins

    NY Times is a closely held family company whose goal primary goal is to make money for the family. The fact they do it through journalism is of a secondary consideration.

    Short-sighted business people long have compromised the employment opportunities of millions of people and ultimately destroyed the the very businesses that they rely upon for their own personal comforts.

    This generation of the family operator of this once successful and powerful journalistic enterprise has a track record of moving the Time from being THE paper of record to being just another voice. But his personal goal, and his compensation haven’t changed.

  10. tobe berkovitz

    L.K. Collins said,
    “NY Times is a closely held family company whose goal primary goal is to make money for the family. The fact they do it through journalism is of a secondary consideration.”

    I thought the goals of journalism were reporting the truth and protecting democracy.

  11. L.K. Collins

    The goals of a corporation are not necessarily the same as the goals of journalism.

    Given the closely-held nature of NYTCo., the private interests may hold sway over the journalistic. Certainly under the current stewardship, a reasonable argument could be made for this point.

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