FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Union Workers Forced to Accept Massive Cuts

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

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

December 19, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russophobia and the Specter of War
Jonathan Cook
American Public’s Backing for One-State Solution Falls on Deaf Ears
Daniel Warner
1968: The Year That Will Not Go Away
Arshad Khan
Developing Country Issues at COP24 … and a Bit of Good News for Solar Power and Carbon Capture
Kenneth Surin
Trump’s African Pivot: Another Swipe at China
Patrick Bond
South Africa Searches for a Financial Parachute, Now That a $170 Billion Foreign Debt Cliff Looms
Tom Clifford
Trade for Hostages? Trump’s New Approach to China
Binoy Kampmark
May Days in Britain
John Feffer
Globalists Really Are Ruining Your Life
John O'Kane
Drops and the Dropped: Diversity and the Midterm Elections
December 18, 2018
Charles Pierson
Where No Corn Has Grown Before: Better Living Through Climate Change?
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The Waters of American Democracy
Patrick Cockburn
Will Anger in Washington Over the Murder of Khashoggi End the War in Yemen?
George Ochenski
Trump is on the Ropes, But the Pillage of Natural Resources Continues
Farzana Versey
Tribals, Missionaries and Hindutva
Robert Hunziker
Is COP24 One More Big Bust?
David Macaray
The Truth About Nursing Homes
Nino Pagliccia
Have the Russian Military Aircrafts in Venezuela Breached the Door to “America’s Backyard”?
Paul Edwards
Make America Grate Again
David Rosnick
The Impact of OPEC on Climate Change
Binoy Kampmark
The Kosovo Blunder: Moving Towards a Standing Army
Andrew Stewart
Shine a Light for Immigration Rights in Providence
December 17, 2018
Susan Abulhawa
Marc Lamont Hill’s Detractors are the True Anti-Semites
Jake Palmer
Viktor Orban, Trump and the Populist Battle Over Public Space
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Fights Proposal to Keep It From Looting Medicare
David Rosen
December 17th: International Day to End Violence against Sex Workers
Binoy Kampmark
The Case that Dare Not Speak Its Name: the Conviction of Cardinal Pell
Dave Lindorff
Making Trump and Other Climate Criminals Pay
Bill Martin
Seeing Yellow
Julian Vigo
The World Google Controls and Surveillance Capitalism
ANIS SHIVANI
What is Neoliberalism?
James Haught
Evangelicals Vote, “Nones” Falter
Vacy Vlanza
The Australian Prime Minister’s Rapture for Jerusalem
Martin Billheimer
Late Year’s Hits for the Hanging Sock
Weekend Edition
December 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
A Tale of Two Cities
Peter Linebaugh
The Significance of The Common Wind
Bruce E. Levine
The Ketamine Chorus: NYT Trumpets New Anti-Suicide Drug
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Fathers and Sons, Bushes and Bin Ladens
Kathy Deacon
Coffee, Social Stratification and the Retail Sector in a Small Maritime Village
Nick Pemberton
Praise For America’s Second Leading Intellectual
Robert Hunziker
The Yellow Vest Insurgency – What’s Next?
Nick Alexandrov
George H. W. Bush: Another Eulogy
Patrick Cockburn
The Yemeni Dead: Six Times Higher Than Previously Reported
Brian Cloughley
Principles and Morality Versus Cash and Profit? No Contest
Michael F. Duggan
Climate Change and the Limits of Reason
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail