The union official who responded to this critique sounded irked, too. After giving the reporter a crash course in Negotiating 101 — you start strong and aggressive, and save the concessions for later — he complained that some members, particularly those who've publicly questioned the union, are coming close to betraying the union as a whole. In effect: we're doing our best for you, and you're kicking the crap out of us. (The surveys, it was later explained, would be taken into account by Guild leadership, though it wasn't exactly clear how.)
Whether this acrimony was worse than you'd expect from a union under duress — particularly one comprising workers with radically different job descriptions — is an open question. Maybe the April 23 meeting provided a catharsis that will bring the Guild's members together. By the meeting's end, this antagonism had given way to professions of mutual interest and respect. (The following day, I got an anonymous call from a woman who identified herself as a Globe journalist, and said the Guild's critics were beginning to "get it.")
Even if that's true, though, the Globe's journalists have to be kicking themselves right now. The union's executive committee is currently dominated by non-journalists — men and women who, given the jobs they do every day, naturally find it difficult to envision (let alone embrace) a post-print future. And this situation exists, in large part, due to the newsroom's long-standing disinterest in union matters. If the Globe manages to survive, expect that to change.
Rallying in vain?
Given the stakes involved, it would be nice to report that the Guild's "Save the Globe" rally — held at Faneuil Hall on April 24, the day after Baron spoke and the Guild's detractors and defenders duked it out — was a smashing success. But that would be going too far.
First the good news: there were moments, this past Friday, when the indignation of the Globe's supporters was truly righteous — moments where you actually felt that, if the bigwigs of the Times Co. took just a minute and listened, they'd see the error of their ways, hang their heads in shame, and commit to doing whatever was necessary to keep the Globe alive.
Unfortunately, most of these moments came in veteran reporter Brian Mooney's speech. "I'm worried about keeping my job, but that's not the point," said Mooney. "What's important is the survival of the Globe itself. . . . We go wider and deeper in our coverage than anyone. The Globe starts the conversation and referees the debate, 365 days a year, and now 24 hours a day."
If there was overstatement here, there was also a considerable amount of truth. And Mooney deserves extra kudos for his devastating dissection of the perks that Times Co. chairman Sulzberger and CEO Robinson have enjoyed (one-time bonuses awarded in the very bad year of 2008, Sulzberger's $11,000 spin that same year in the Times Co.'s private jet) — a sustained takedown that led, at one point, to a nifty little call-and-response with the audience: "Shame on the New York Times Company!" "Shame on them!"