< .comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Monday, May 04, 2009

A losing hand

If Deval Patrick holds the winning hand in the debate over enhanced pensions for state legislators who voluntarily leave office, the Boston Globe unions hold the ultimate losing hand in their talks with the New York Times over the paper's future.

Do it our way, or take the blame for the closing of New England's largest newspaper.

And while no one will shed a tear if or when the Times sells the Globe, the Overlords on 8th Avenue hold a card almost as powerful as Patrick. It's hard to muster sympathy for lifetime job guarantees in an era when jobs are disappearing as Young Arthur Sulzberger's reputation.

Yes, I am well aware the guarantees were accepted by the Times as part of collective bargaining. But as it has often been said, there is a difference in winning in a courtroom and in the court of public opinion.

Holding on to the promise of lifetime jobs in the face of threats to end everyone's jobs is the ultimate losing hand. And slowly but surely, craft unions are reaching the same conclusion.

Newspaper Guild President Dan Totten can proclaim the guild has offered a package of $20 million in savings without shedding the guarantees. But his protest is in vain. Symbols matter -- and the 60-day notice required under the plant closing law is a more powerful symbol, one with real teeth.

The Times will emerge from this process with a battered reputation, both as a corporation and as a news operation. Their failure to cover this story with the same intensity as other troubled newspapers is a subject for a long and deep analysis.

Their use of hardball negotiating tactics could bring comfort to critics who view the newspapers as a liberal menace -- although more likely it will just reconfirm conservative biases that liberals say one thing and do another.

Closing the Globe would be the worst outcome of all -- and one I still believe won't happen, even if they file the plant closing notice.

But New York holds all the cards in this showdown. The guild and other unions must now decide how much better no paycheck is than the loss of job security.

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home