Globe staffers to publisher: save us from healthcare "caste system"

The Globe story of the moment is the (possibly) impending sale of the paper--but mounting resistance to a new, high-cost health plan among the members of the paper's biggest union is a noteworthy subplot.

Earlier this afternoon, a letter went out from more than 100 employees to publisher Steve Ainsley. They're asking management to restore a "significant portion" of $1.5 million in healthcare contributions that were recently eliminated, and arguing that bad info provided by the Times Co. prior to the Guild's contract vote earlier this year. It's a similar case to the one made in a recent missive to the Guild's own leaders--but sharper, aimed at the paper's top business-side guy, and signed by a whole lot more people.

Some interesting questions to ponder: 1) Since the Globe may be sold in the near future, how likely is it that Ainsley or the Times Co. will act, even if they're feeling generous? 2) Might labor dissatisfaction with health coverage, which could hint at tough contract negotiations to come, spook prospective bidders (esp. Tom Gores)--or, conversely, make the Times Co. marginally more inclined to unload the paper? 3) I've been told that the new plan, absent any new management mitigation, will carry about a $3,000 annual deductible for Guild employees. If that's correct, how many Globe staffers--especially in the newsroom--are going to do their damndest to find better-paying jobs?


Oct. 8, 2009
Dear Steve, 

We are writing to you because we know you care deeply about the Globe, and understand that radically cutting health benefits is bad for employees, for their families, and for business. The proposed bare bones health plan puts individuals and families at risk for thousands of dollars in medical bills, while charging significantly higher premiums.

This is an unfair burden to place on employees who already have agreed to significant salary and benefit reductions, particularly since Boston Globe and New York Times Company executives stated publicly last month that the Globe’s finances have improved.

The plan would leave the Boston Globe embarrassingly out-of-step with other large companies, according to national studies.

We also believe the company was falsely optimistic with union members in the days preceding the July 20 vote, failing to indicate that approval of the concession package would put our comprehensive health insurance at risk. 

For these reasons, we request that the Globe increase the company’s contribution to the union’s health care fund. We ask that the Globe restore a significant portion of the $1.5 million in quid pro quo payments that management has eliminated. We believe that you, as we do, want health coverage that is a source of pride for the company, not embarrassment.

If this plan takes effect, the Globe will eliminate all but catastrophic health care coverage for a large portion of its employees. It would create a caste system at the newspaper, providing superior coverage for managers and poorer coverage for employees.

We’ve been surprised to learn how poorly the Globe would compare to companies nationwide if this plan is implemented, and believe you would want to consider this information when deciding whether to restore company funding. According to a report last month from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Health Research & Education Trust:

          o The average company nationwide contributes 83 percent of the premiums for employees’ individual health care plans and 73 percent for family plans. Since the Guild contract was ratified in July, the Globe now contributes only 54 percent of employees’ premiums.

          o Compared to the average health care plan nationwide, the Globe’s proposed bare bones plan will cost three times as much in annual premiums for individuals and 58 percent more for families.

          o Compared to other high-deductible plans, which tend to have low annual premiums, the proposed plan would charge more than double the national average for families and more than five times the national average for individuals.

Both the New York Times and the Boston Globe have well-documented public stances on the need for affordable health care, as well as the need for employers to contribute fairly to their employees’ health benefits. We believe, if this health plan is implemented, the company would be in conflict with its own public positions.

In the weeks leading up to July’s contract ratification, Guild members received information about health care that we feel was misleading. In a Q&A for employees distributed on July 17, the company said the health care trustees could “work together with the plan provider, Harvard Pilgrim, on ways to mitigate the increase [in health care costs].” The same Q&A noted that “there is a substantial reserve in the [health care] Fund which will allow the trustees some time to negotiate with Harvard Pilgrim.” The implication was that health care costs would not rise substantially after the contract was ratified and that coverage would be preserved. Had members understood the consequences of the company’s reduction in health care contributions, and calculated the real loss of income that would represent, many would have voted “no” instead of “yes.”

For all the reasons outlined above, we ask the company to increase its contribution. We believe a company this size should do better for its employees.

David Abel

Jenn Abelson

Yvonne Abraham

Bob Adduci

Scott Allen

Sam Allis

Aaron Atencio

Don Aucoin

Alex Beam

Bryan Bender

Drake Bennett

Noah Bierman

Marcella Bombardieri

Hiawatha Bray

Kathleen Burge

Ty Burr

David Butler

William J. Cadigan

Andrew Caffrey

Chona Camomot

Matt Carroll

Veronica Chao

Katie Johnston Chase

Barry Chin

Katheleen Conti

Maria Cramer

Mary Creane

Beverly Cronin

Kevin Cullen

Beth Daley

Julie Dalton

Jim Davis

Kerry Drohan

Gary Dzen

Stephanie Ebbert

Geoff Edgers

Bella English

Andrea Estes

David Filipov

Martin Finucane

Anne Fitzgerald

Terence Fitzgerald

Timothy Flynn

Margaret Folan

Janet Insolia Ford

Adele Foy

James L. Franklin

Julie Gilbert

Meredith Goldstein

Courtney Hollands

David Jacobson

Tracy Jan

Wanda M. Joseph-Rollins

Sheryl Julian

Joseph P. Kahn

Cindy Karalius

Lisa Kocian

Liz Kowalczyk

Suzanne Kreiter

Scott LaPierre

Scot Lehigh

Brian MacQuarrie

Ed Maksvytis

Jeremiah Manion

Jim McBride

Jenifer McKim

Katie McLeod

Jair Mendes

Liza Meneades

Susan Milligan

Shelley Murphy

Angela M. Nelson

Erica Noonan

Rebecca Ostriker

George Patisteas

Barbara Pattison

Michael Paulson

Brendan Raftery

Brian Reardon

Dave Richwine

Steven Rosenberg

Jenna Russell

Maria Sacchetti

Jonathan Saltzman

Sarah Schweitzer

Debra Sheehan

Mark Shimabukuro

Steve Silva

Ann Silvio

Shira Springer

Farah Stockman

Kortney Stringer

Essdras Suarez

Neil Swidey

L. Kim Tan

Jamie Vaznis

Michael Vega

Matt Viser

Adrian Walker

Lisa Wangsness

Dan Wasserman

Robert Weisman

Joanna Weiss

Patricia Wen

Ed Wiederer

Jonathan Louis Wiggs

Megan Woolhouse

June Wulff

Al Young

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