Defending Dan Totten

In today's Herald, Christine McConville reports on dissension in the ranks of the Boston Newspaper Guild as possible closure by the New York Times Co. looms--a subject I've been interested in for quite a while, and that I'll be examining further in a story that'll be online later today.

In a previous post on this subject, I intimated that Guild head Dan Totten had jumped the gun in ruling out certain concessions before tabulating the results of a survey distributed to union members the day before. The same complaint was made, vociferously, at a Guild meeting last Thursday--and now Totten (per McConville) has said that the survey results won't be shared with the Guild members, period.

Is this "Nixonian," to quote a Globe reporter quoted by the Herald? I don't think so. Totten and the rest of the Guild leadership is in a tough spot here: if the survey results are shared with the entire guild, they'll promptly be leaked to the Boston media. We'll report on them. The New York Times Co. will know, in minute detail, the preferences of the Guild's members. And the union will lose a great deal of leverage.

Another point made at last Thursday's meeting--in this case, by a union official--was that the Guild's members shouldn't read too much into content or tone of the public pronouncements made by union officials. That same point was stressed in an email Totten recently sent to Guild members, responding to criticisms from one particular union member. The exchange follows; note, too, Totten's plea for maximum involvement from all union members. Given the genuine tensions that exist within the Guild, I'd say Totten's missive makes a pretty compelling case that he's hearing the concerns of his membership:


Dear Members,

I am following up on the below note from one of our members. Over the past 3 weeks there has been 3 separate General Membership meetings (more meetings in such a condensed time frame than at any other point in the history of our union, and obviously neccessary given the weight of the situation) held on various days of the week at different times of day. This union or any union for that matter greatest source of  strength comes from it's membership.

These are trying times for each and every member. Scheduling accommodations on General Membership meetings and Governing Board meetings have been and will continue to be made moving forward. The General Member meetings are vital to the process and important for information flow to and from
members.It is important that each and every member MAKE THE EFFORT to attend meetings and reach out to their delegates for information whenever needed.

The magnitude of the Boston Globe / NYT negotiations underway demands your full engagement, involvement and participation in the process while also asking you to understand the off the record nature of the talks - where posturing and strategy play certain important roles in the process, which can be frustrating to those not used the process.

I sent an email last night around 9pm citing that negations are ongoing this week with sessions scheduled between BNG -Globe/NYT for Wednesday and Friday this week. Our goal is to communicate to members each and every day this week, even if no substantive progress is made.

Again, I urge you to reach out to your department delegates as we move forward and as always - please contact the union office with any questions or concerns.


Dan Totten


Union Leadership,

For the sake of the many of us who have simply not been able to attend the past couple of Union Meetings, and even for those who have, it would be very helpful if someone could communicate to everyone where we stand.  I would personally love to see a communication that addresses all of the following:

Management's specific original demands including anything that has since  been added, amended or retracted

Separate union leadership assessment of what each of the demands would mean to union membership

Detailed results of the union survey many of us responded to

Specifics of any union responses that have been delivered by the union to management including the logic used to determine responses

Any upcoming dates of interest to membership such as negotiation deadlines, union membership meetings, union/mgmt meetings

Steps being taken by the union to increase communication and foster a sense of inclusion for all membership

I, personally, would love to see all of the above free of editorial commentary and hyperbolic language such as "draconian demands".  If you would like to include a separate paragraph or two that puts some of the above into context as you see it, that would be fine.  But, I know I am much more interested in the data, time-lines, steps taken and steps yet to be taken at this point.  I definitely wonder how well my interests are going to be represented because, unfortunately, the last two to the three meetings presented schedule conflicts for which could not be resolved.

And, there has been absolutely zero communication from union leaders following these meetings.  I know that the majority of people I have spoken feel the same.  Not necessarily the majority of the membership, but absolutely the majority of the people with whom I have had conversations with wondering where we are at and where we are going.

A timely response would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you very much.


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