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The impasse-ible dream

So: now that the Boston Newspaper Guild has voted no, the New York Times Co. can just declare an impasse, impose that 23-percent pay cut, and get the requisite $10 million in savings from the Guild, thereby guaranteeing that the Globe stays open. Right?

Maybe not. Earlier today, Angela Cornell, director of the labor law clinic at Cornell University (I know--what are the odds?), told me that the Times Co.'s legal reasoning seemed shaky. As Cornell explained it, the Times Co. can only credibly claim that an impasse was reached on the contract offer voted down yesterday--and that, consequently, that's the only contract whose terms they can now unilaterally impose.

"It's that proposal that the Times Co. can lawfullly implement," Cornell said. "But management apparently has some intention of implementing the 23-percent pay cut next week. That's a concern, because that could violate the section of the National Labor Relations Act that deals with bargaining violations."

If I read a new memo from Guild head Dan Totten to Greg Thornton, the Globe's senior vp/employee relations, correctly, the objection voiced by Cornell is going to be a key part of the Guild's attempt to block imposition of the 23 percent cut. The memo follows; note, too, Totten's suggestion that newly disclosed details about the Globe's financial condition weaken the Times Co.'s case for rapid, unilateral imposition of the cut in question:

 

Thank you for your June 8 letter.

While The Globe/NYT may assert that the twenty-three percent (23%) wage reduction proposal “is now in effect”, in fact there has been no substantive bargaining regarding this proposal… voluntary, mid-term negotiations to date have focused upon The Globe/NYT “multi-faceted Final Record Proposal,” and clearly have not taken place in the context of the Article II reopener.

Thus, unilateral declaration of impasse and implementation of the so-called alternative wage reduction proposal without requisite substantive bargaining exacerbates what The Guild believes to be the Globe/NYT violative conduct in terms of contractual and statutory obligations.

Further, periodic revelations appear to undermine The Globe/NYT advocacy as to “the urgency of The Globe’s financial condition.”

The Guild requests that The Globe/NYT rescind its unilateral declaration of impasse and notice of implementation of the wage reduction so that, while reserving all contractual and statutory issues, the Guild has the opportunity to negotiate as to the wage reduction alternative proposal.

Also by this letter The Guild renews its proposal for the parties to engage in mediation prior to any unilateral change.

Please contact me to discuss The Guild’s requests for status-quo maintenance, bargaining and mediation.

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