boycott will reduce more revenues, prompting even more reduction
a circulation boycott for two reasons:
feel it's against what we stand for as newspaper people. I know
that many are angry over the standoff, but we shouldn't let that
provoke us into crippling the paper we hold in trust. That's what
a circulation boycott would do.
the goal is to pressure management, but a boycott hits the wrong
circulation is currently near a modern low. To knowingly strip
away thousands of subscribers - maybe tens of thousands - would
devastate the newspaper itself.
it's false to think we can get those subscribers back, no matter
how organized we are with pledge cards. Once readers lose the
daily habit, many never return. That could be especially true
now, with a recession making household money tighter than ever.
The result? We'll be a smaller paper in every way: Smaller staff,
smaller news hole, smaller news budget, smaller compensation gains.
We Guild members would pay that price.
unless the company caves.
brings up the second reason I'm against a boycott - the strategic
Can a boycott
push the company into meeting union demands? I can't imagine it.
In the last few years, we've seen the economy tank to a point
where newspaper layoffs became common. Since Sept. 11, it has
the Journal lose such critical advertisers as Apex and Ann and
Hope. Most important, management has now frozen wages and is seeking
to picture Belo fattening its union offer at the same time it
is almost desperately slashing costs. How could any company increase
pay for one select group while freezing everyone else?
more likely that the opposite will happen: more takebacks. Why
wouldn't it? The company's entire focus is reducing costs due
to reduced revenues. A boycott will reduce more revenues, prompting
even more reduction in costs. Which costs? I think a yes vote
on the boycott will be a yes vote for layoffs and an even more
reduced Guild offer.
In my view,
the Guild's strategy has been a miscalculation. We could have
had three years of 3 percent raises, but have instead gone almost
two years with no raises - and now face at least two more no-raise
blame the Guild or management, the truth is that the union is
now in a corner because the economy collapsed while the standoff
stretched on. The only proven truth so far is that the longer
we wait, the worse our situation gets.
the boycott will work because it'll be the first time we'll hit
the company financially. I suppose there's a small chance that's
true. But for all the above reasons, a yes vote will almost certainly
backfire like a hand grenade dropped at our own feet. And it will
damage a fine newspaper.
So what should
we do? Well, I see the company's offer like a stock. We kept waiting
for it to go up, but it instead went down. The reality is that
it could, and probably will go down further if we keep waiting
- especially if we choose a boycott.
I keep thinking:
"We should have taken the old offer."
from now, we could easily be thinking the same thing about the
reduced offer now on the table.
take a deep breath, vote to accept it, and move on before things
get even worse.
for a boycott will bring
the company to its senses and to the table.'
We all have
a tough choice next week. It is one I do not really want to face.
And it bothers me that some Guild members seem to be venting their
anger at the company through the boycott proposal.
I have many
fears. Perhaps the biggest is that if we are successful, we end
will up diminishing the market for the work done by our members.
This is never a good thing for a union. And as Belo shareholder
(albeit a small one) I know this is not a good thing for the company.
And I sometimes
get exasperated with the endless complaints against the company,
the list-serve hand-wringing and whining.
We all take
pride in our work. In the weeks since Sept. 11, The janitors,
editors, ad salespeople, support staff and reporters have all
been doing what we do best - giving the citizens of southeastern
New England the information they need to deal with a changed world.
have reluctantly come to the decision that we must support our
union leadership on the boycott issue.
This is not
a good time to undercut our leaders and undermine our union. Even
though things are not well at the newspaper, we should not blame
the Guild or its leadership.
raise we have had since January, 1999 was the 1-percent increase,
which was due to a Guild contract provision that the union battled
all the way to Federal Court.
company, we are a democracy; we choose our own leaders and policies.
"We" really are the union. If this sometimes makes our
affairs look messy and our arguments petty, well, so be it. This
is the price we pay for taking responsibility for our destiny.
No one can
predict the future. The newspaper was sold within a few months
of the last major employee buyout in the mid-1990s, shortly after
then-publisher Stephen Hamblett said the Journal was ''Not for
Guild contract does anyone really believe management would do
anything but lay people off, merrily cherry-picking the building?
is, the Guild members in Providence have been doing our part for
Belo's revenues since 1999. And it was not the Guild that instituted
such multi-million dollar boondoggles as the Cue Cat.
has been a fixture at the Journal since 1959. It is the reason
we traditionally have had decent wages and benefits. That tradition
is under attack by a management that seems driven by something
other than fair play. A management that wanted to play fair would
never have pulled the dues check-off, would never have put itself
in a position to be subject to so many unfair labor practice charges.
most rank-and-file members of the Guild want is to reopen negotiations
and forge an agreement that both sides can live with. The Guild
has been willing to do this all along.
the boycott does not mean a boycott will start immediately. The
union leadership will call one when it believes it will do the
most good. As far as I am concerned there is only one goal - getting
the company back to the table for meaningful talks.
realize the world has changed, the country is headed for a recession
and that revenues are down. Many of us believe we can deal with
some of these restrictions, but only if management gives us the
When it comes
to Belo's stock price, the equity markets do not want to hear
that there is a threat of a consumer boycott in Providence.
showing the company we are serious about preparing for a boycott
will bring the company to its senses and back to the table.