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Today's Globe question: what makes an impasse?

Beat the Press blogger Ralph Ranalli notes an interesting contradiction regarding the ongoing Times Co.-Boston Newspaper Guild negotiations:

My question is this: Since the imposition of the 23 percent wage cut was based on the Times claim of a bargaining "impasse," how Times officials be participating in marathon bargaining sessions yet asserting an impasse at the same time? Someone help me with this.

I can't provide a definitive answer. But it seems to me that two points are worth highlighting here.

First, as I wrote in this week's Phoenix, at least one labor-law specialist--Professor Angela Cornell, who directs Cornell University's labor-law clinic--believes the Times Co.'s impasse claim may have been questionable from the outset. Thus far, however, no legal authority has kept the company from making the claim and proceeding accordingly. So if you're the Times Co., why not press on with the claim of impasse and the ensuing wage cut, even if circumstances have changed?

Second, it seems that the Times Co. and the Guild are only negotiating now because the 23-percent wage cut was implemented. If the Guild had rejected the Times Co.'s last contract proposal, and the Times Co. hadn't ramped up the pressure by implementing the cut in question, the Guild would be operating from a position of far greater strength than it currently is. Rescind the cut, in other words, and the talks could break down altogether.

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