WHY WE NEED
AN EFFECTIVE BOYCOTT
By Brian Jones
I am one of
the people in the Guild who have long advocated a circulation boycott
as a negotiating tool, and have been among the architects of the
boycott plan that now being developed.
As a union action,
it has a couple of things to recommend it.
One, it has the potential to put economic pressure on the company.
A vigorous boycott
by the paper's customers will cost the Journal the income it gets
from selling copies of the paper, and could eventually force lowing
of ad rates.
does this without requiring the Guild to go on strike. A strike,
of course, remains the tactic of last resort. But it's a harsh step,
for both workers who leave their jobs, and for the newspaper trying
to recover from a walkout.
Just as with
a strike, this tactic has its problems.
one is making it work.
is already losing readers, but the ones we have left love this paper.
We saw this during the company-created circulation crisis earlier
The Guild is
working with other labor unions, whose 80,000 members will be more
ready than the general public to understand what it is being asked
of them and more willing to make a temporary sacrifice of their
best source of news.
The second pitfall
is that readers, once separated from the paper, may not come back.
I believe most will return, because they do like the paper. Further,
the Guild is planning a controlled boycott. We will have the names
of those we are asking to help us. When it's over, we will contact
each one and ask him or her to resume buying the paper.
part of this action is that we need it. It would be great if basic
fairness, common sense and the shared interest that both the union
and management have in the well-being of the newspaper would be
sufficient to produce a new contract.
But for whatever
reason, such high motives have not been at work on the company's
part. Perhaps it is hatred of unions. Perhaps it is greed.
In the end,
a boycott is not something that the Guild wishes, but that the company
has forced on the union. Our best hope is to make the boycott successful,
shortening the time that we need it, so that we can get back to
the difficult, wonderful task of putting out one of America's great
A DISSENTING OPINION
By Mark Patinkin
I was concerned to see that our union leadership
has taken steps to plan a circulation and advertising boycott. I
am hoping there will be room in the Guild Leader, and the Guild's
spirit, for a dissenting view.
To be direct, I feel it's a self-destructive measure,
and philosophically wrong to seek to undermine a newspaper we as
journalists and Journal workers hold in trust.
I realize our leadership felt reluctantly driven
to this choice by the company's intransigence. It has no doubt been
a maddening ordeal for those on the front lines.
I also understand the Guild sees a boycott as an
act of brinkmanship, hoping the threat alone will spur the company
to come to agreement.
Still, if we maneuver ourselves into a position
of having to pull the trigger, then I believe management won't be
the only ones burned. For us to seek to cripple the paper financially
will ultimately harm ourselves.
I see two outcomes of a boycott. One, management
refuses to cave, and as the months go by, we keep squeezing out
the very revenues necessary for us to get the wages we want. Two,
the boycott is so punitive management does cave. Fine, but how about
three years from now? In this era, newspapers don't get back circulation
they "temporarily" lose. The more successful this boycott,
the less profitable the Journal will be in the future -- and the
less able to pay.
At best, it's a win-now-lose-later strategy. At
Yes, I understand that for us to cooperatively keep
the company profitable won't guarantee us our demands, because it
hasn't so far. But you can bet that a less profitable company will
be offering us even worse contracts.
To me, this step would be like an underpaid ship's
crew punching holes in the hull as a way of pressuring the captain
to raise their wages. To stretch the comparison, you don't do that
to a ship already heading toward weather, since we all know newspapers
face a problematic future at best.
Although I have not been an active union member,
I am nevertheless grateful to those who have spent their time trying
to get us all a better contract. And admittedly, I can't offer other
But if we go forward with a boycott, I'm afraid
that sadly, I can't see myself paying dues to support a strategy
I believe will harm the newspaper itself, and ultimately hurt all
of its workers.