For the last year, the New York Times has sought to break the will of itsown employee union. That’s not something you’ll read in the Times’ pages,but it is the assessment of Times’ labor reporter Steven Greenhouse made public today in the form of an email he sent tocolleagues.
Greenhouse explains the ongoing contract negotiations which havesome journalists at the Grey Lady considering a strike:
The Guild contract expired on March 31, 2011, and there washardly any movement in the negotiations in the subsequent 11 months. Duringthose 11 months, management stuck to its initial contract offer, whichdemanded very significant concessions, most notably a pension freeze and athree-year salary freeze. That offer would have meant a cut of more than 15percent in compensation for every one of us over the life of the proposedthree-year contract, after factoring in inflation.
Greenhouse explains that this initial offer was offensive to the Times‘1100 Guild reporters and was soundly rejected. However, the Times managementdid not make a second offer until a year later. Greenhouse attributes thisdelay to an attempt to break employees’ will. When it did finally arrive, thenew offer from the Times‘ management demanded a 10-11% cut after inflation, which Greenhouse describes as “draconian and punitive.” In the final portionof his email, Greenhouse describes what the offers and the delays have meantfor morale in the Times‘ newsroom:
I’ve heard numerous colleagues say that as a result ofmanagement’s hardline negotiating stance, the newsroom seems angrier, thegap between the newsroom and upper management greater, than at any time indecades…Many of us Guild members have the sinking feeling that the Timesbargaining team has abandoned any serious effort to work with us and isinstead seeking to cram down its hugely concessionary offer by trying towait us out and break our will — all while applying a lot of lipstick totheir pig of a contract offer.
Will the Times offer an editorial stating that a 10-15% cut in privatesector union compensation is reasonable under current economiccircumstances? Not likely, but that is what management privately believes,at least when the future of their own business is at stake.