Boston Globe’s Union Writes Its Own Obituary

Photo by Pierre Lascott, via FlickrWith sadness, I saw last night that the main union at the Boston Globe voted narrowly to reject the New York Times’ proposal to cut $10 million from the paper’s costs by cutting salaries, reducing benefits and other costs.

The union members were angry. They were frightened. Still, after listening to and reading their comments last night and today, I have to wonder what planet they’re living on. These are smart people; I know many of them. But they still seem to think they’re in a position to bargain for a better deal on the salary cut.

Instead, because of their “no” vote, they got a 23% pay cut, and the right to take their gripes to the National Labor Relations Board. This can only result in a long, ugly demise, and ultimately kill a good journalistic enterprise.

I don’t think the Globe is perfect, but it is pretty good. They did an awesome job uncovering the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. They are doing good work exposing the ridiculous culture of entitlement in our state government. (The Herald had the story first, but the Globe has done a better job reporting it, free of the annoying snarkiness of the Herald’s columnists.)

And while I have my gripes with boston.com, at least I check it out several times a day. There’s a good deal of vigor and energy there.

Earlier this year, I suggested that only bankruptcy would save the Globe, because it may be the only way it can get out from under its crushing cost structure. Sadly, the union’s vote and refusal to be a partner in the enterprise’s  reinvention makes such a filing more likely.

Jeff Jarvis argues that the Globe has to reinvent itself as an online journalistic service. It’s not a new idea, but it’s sound. Sadly, though, the union’s vote makes even the viability of boston.com a questionable proposition.

UPDATE: The Globe reported this morning that its owner, the New York Times, asked Goldman Sachs to continue its efforts to find a buyer for the Globe and the rest of its New England properties. Not surprisingly, this effort started before the union voted.

Surely, this effort will gain momentum following Monday night’s vote. The “no” voters may be praying for a new owner, but careful what you wish for.

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