FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Union Workers Forced to Accept Massive Cuts

by DAVID MACARAY

On Wednesday night (July 22), unionized employees of the Boston Globe—members of the Boston Newspaper Guild—voted 366 to 179 to accept massive wage and benefit cuts in order keep the venerable, 137-year old newspaper afloat.

This outcome followed an earlier vote, more than a month ago, where the membership narrowly (by a margin of 12 votes) turned down a similar contract offer.  The difference between that vote and this one was, ostensibly, the result of some slight movement on the company’s part and, alas, a crushing sense of dread on the part of the Guild’s 700 members, which include editorial, advertising and clerical staff. The concessions include significant pay cuts, forced furloughs and uncompensated vacation leave, elimination of job security provisions and severe slashing of the health and pension benefits.  In short, it’s an across-the-board reduction of the entire collective bargaining package, reminiscent of the succession of staggering cuts the UAW (United Auto Workers) has been forced to make ever since the mid-1990s.Even with the massive concessions, the Globe (owned by the New York Times Company), is not out of the woods.

According to Guild president Dan Totten, the Times Co. had announced going into negotiations that, at the very minimum, it needed a $20 million payroll reduction to avoid shutting down the paper.  It was a grim scenario.Still, some skeptics have suggested that it’s all part of an elaborate power-play to bust the union, that because the newspaper is on the market—with the Times Co. aggressively courting potential buyers—the company was looking to reduce its contractual liability to make the acquisition more attractive. Ultimately, despite the suspicions, mutual recriminations, and dragging out of negotiations for more than three months, Guild members had little choice but ratifying the agreement.  After all, what were their options?  Vote it down and dare the Globe to go out of business?  People need to work, and they’ll do practically anything to avoid economic suicide.

To that point, it should be remembered that employees of the infamous Three Mile Island nuclear facility petitioned the government to allow them to return to work after the accident even though the plant was classified as radioactively “contaminated.”  Why would they risk returning to a dangerous facility?  Because they needed the work. Two phenomena continue to defy explanation.  One is working people who gloat when they hear that union members (like the Guild or UAW) are forced to make concessions to management.  The other is low or low-middle-class workers who stubbornly oppose raising the taxes of the very wealthy.

Arguably, given the eccentricities of human nature, you can almost understand the first phenomenon.  You can write it off to petty jealously or resentment. You can put yourself in their place and more or less understand how non-union workers would experience a jolt of satisfaction at seeing their better compensated unionized brethren get “payback.” Still, it’s a bizarre and lamentable mindset.  Lemon-sucking right-wing Republicans wanting to see a union get hammered is bad enough, but underpaid, under-insured working people wanting to see it happen is not only disappointing, it’s self-defeating. The second phenomenon is more disturbing.  Just as there is something refreshingly healthy and life-affirming about wanting the very rich to pay more taxes, there’s something morbid and sick about not wanting it.  For working people earning $40,000 annually it should be a natural reflex—a survival instinct—to want investment bankers earning $10 million to pay more taxes. And we’re not discussing economic theories here, with their attendant formulas, graphs, and charts.  We’re talking about one’s fundamental outlook on the world.  We’re talking about the kind of egalitarianism that puts a fire in the belly of an underdog and causes him to rejoice when the extravagantly privileged are forced to acknowledge their shared humanity.

A poor man fighting on behalf of the wealthy—doing all he can to help the rich get richer—is not only irrational, it’s self-destructive.  It’s like the fox going out and buying running shoes for the hounds. Some years ago I had a conversation with “Fred” at the union hall.  Fred was a shipping checker working in a warehouse, I was a union rep.  We were friends.  I knew his family.  The subject of tax brackets arose, and I was stunned and annoyed when he declared, almost defiantly, that he was opposed to the wealthy paying more taxes.

Fred was an Army veteran, a patriot, a self-described “libertarian,” and a diligent worker respected by his peers, whose dream was to start his own landscaping business.  It gives me no pleasure to admit that, because I didn’t have the patience to approach the issue by nibbling around its edges, I went straight for the jugular.  I told Fred that Wall Street loves fools like him.  They love gullible, simple-minded poor people who work hard, pay their taxes, and, yet, oppose forcing these parasitic Wall Street bastards to part with their money.  “They view you as the perfect stooge,” I told him.  “A poor man fighting for the interests of the rich.” Granted, what I said was self-righteous and overheated, but it got the point across.

However, Fred’s answer still confounds and haunts me.  He calmly said, “I plan to have my own business someday, and I don’t want the government taking my money.”

DAVID MACARAY, a Los Angeles playwright (“Americana,” “Larva Boy”) and writer, was a former labor union rep.  He can be reached at Dmacaray@earthlink.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Macaray is a playwright and author. His newest book is How To Win Friends and Avoid Sacred Cows.  He can be reached at dmacaray@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

March 29, 2017
Jeffrey Sommers
Donald Trump and Steve Bannon: Real Threats More Serious Than Fake News Trafficked by Media
David Kowalski
Does Washington Want to Start a New War in the Balkans?
Patrick Cockburn
Bloodbath in West Mosul: Civilians Being Shot by Both ISIS and Iraqi Troops
Ron Forthofer
War and Propaganda
Matthew Stevenson
Letter From Phnom Penh
James Bovard
Peanuts Prove Congress is Incorrigible
Thomas Knapp
Presidential Golf Breaks: Good For America
Binoy Kampmark
Disaster as Joy: Cyclone Debbie Strikes
Peter Tatchell
Human Rights are Animal Rights!
George Wuerthner
Livestock Grazing vs. the Sage Grouse
Jesse Jackson
Trump Should Form a Bipartisan Coalition to Get Real Reforms
Thomas Mountain
Rwanda Indicts French Generals for 1994 Genocide
Clancy Sigal
President of Pain
Andrew Stewart
President Gina Raimondo?
Lawrence Wittner
Can Our Social Institutions Catch Up with Advances in Science and Technology?
March 28, 2017
Mike Whitney
Ending Syria’s Nightmare will Take Pressure From Below 
Mark Kernan
Memory Against Forgetting: the Resonance of Bloody Sunday
John McMurtry
Fake News: the Unravelling of US Empire From Within
Ron Jacobs
Mad Dog, Meet Eris, Queen of Strife
Michael J. Sainato
State Dept. Condemns Attacks on Russian Peaceful Protests, Ignores Those in America
Ted Rall
Five Things the Democrats Could Do to Save Their Party (But Probably Won’t)
Linn Washington Jr.
Judge Neil Gorsuch’s Hiring Practices: Privilege or Prejudice?
Philippe Marlière
Benoît Hamon, the Socialist Presidential Hopeful, is Good News for the French Left
Norman Pollack
Political Cannibalism: Eating America’s Vitals
Bruce Mastron
Obamacare? Trumpcare? Why Not Cubacare?
David Macaray
Hollywood Screen and TV Writers Call for Strike Vote
Christian Sorensen
We’ve Let Capitalism Kill the Planet
Rodolfo Acuna
What We Don’t Want to Know
Binoy Kampmark
The Futility of the Electronics Ban
Andrew Moss
Why ICE Raids Imperil Us All
March 27, 2017
Robert Hunziker
A Record-Setting Climate Going Bonkers
Frank Stricker
Why $15 an Hour Should be the Absolute Minimum Minimum Wage
Melvin Goodman
The Disappearance of Bipartisanship on the Intelligence Committees
Patrick Cockburn
ISIS’s Losses in Syria and Iraq Will Make It Difficult to Recruit
Russell Mokhiber
Single-Payer Bernie Morphs Into Public Option Dean
Gregory Barrett
Can Democracy Save Us?
Dave Lindorff
Budget Goes Military
John Heid
Disappeared on the Border: “Chase and Scatter” — to Death
Mark Weisbrot
The Troubling Financial Activities of an Ecuadorian Presidential Candidate
Robert Fisk
As ISIS’s Caliphate Shrinks, Syrian Anger Grows
Michael J. Sainato
Democratic Party Continues Shunning Popular Sanders Surrogates
Paul Bentley
Nazi Heritage: the Strange Saga of Chrystia Freeland’s Ukrainian Grandfather
Christopher Ketcham
Buddhism in the Storm
Thomas Barker
Platitudes in the Wake of London’s Terror Attack
Mike Hastie
Insane Truths: a Vietnam Vet on “Apocalypse Now, Redux”
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail