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Globe union members boycott NECN

Union employees at the Boston Globe will refuse to appear on New England Cable News "for at least the next month," according to a statement released this week by the Boston Newspaper Guild. The action represents the latest development in an ongoing contract dispute that has left the paper’s 1200 Guild members working without a contract for the past 34 months.

The proximate cause of the boycott: lingering resentment over the one-week, unpaid suspension of business reporter Jeffrey Krasner, who was punished in September for displaying a pro-union sign in the background of the Globe’s in-house TV studio. The sign popped up during a segment on NECN that was broadcast from the Globe’s newsroom on August 22.

The sign reportedly said MY STANDARD OF LIVING, ERODING DAILY — a spoof on the Globe’s advertising slogan, YOUR WORLD, UNFOLDING DAILY. (My earlier account of Krasner’s one-man protest misreported the message on his sign, and also erroneously stated that the sign was on his desk when it was picked up on NECN; see "Media," This Just In, September 5.)

"We’ve asked our members not to take part in New England Cable News broadcasts," said Boston Newspaper Guild president Steve Richards, a copy editor in the sports department. Asked whether there would be any repercussions for members who choose to go on NECN anyway, Richards responded, "We’re not going to chop anyone’s fingers off or kick anyone out of the union should they choose to appear." But he added, "I think we’ll have very strong support."

Charles Kravetz, NECN’s vice-president of news and station manager, sounded unconcerned about the boycott.

"This is an internal matter inside the Globe, and frankly they’ve done a marvelous job of putting their editors and nonunion personnel on. It hasn’t had much effect on NECN," Kravetz said. "We’re pleased with the people who’ve been on NECN, and we hope that whatever union issues they’re facing are settled quickly so that we can get back to normal."

The Globe has had a partnership with NECN dating back to the mid 1990s. Streaming-video reports from NECN are featured prominently on the Globe’s Web site, Boston.com.

On Monday, Guild members held the latest in a string of rallies outside the Globe’s headquarters, at 135 Morrissey Boulevard. According to Richards, the crowd reached about 500 at its peak, with protesters from other labor unions marching alongside Globe employees. The prop of the day: a large, inflatable rat.

Richards said that management and the union remain divided over issues such as subcontracting, a management proposal to weaken seniority as a criterion for layoffs, and the company’s contribution to the employee health-insurance plan.

Globe spokesman BMaynard Scarborough, in an e-mail, disputed Richards’s crowd figure, estimating it at no more than 165 to 175.

Scarborough also released this statement: "The Globe fully intends to reasonably address its employees’ needs in exchange for the Guild’s agreement to critically important contract changes. As this is the way the Globe has historically negotiated with all its unions, including the Guild, the Globe remains hopeful that, in time and with focused effort, the parties will amicably resolve the current negotiation. Indeed, the Globe has followed this process to achieve agreements with 10 of its other unions in this round of bargaining. It is hopeful that a settlement will be reached that addresses both the Globe’s competitive needs in a tough economy, as well as the needs of the employees."

Issue Date: October 31 - November 6, 2003
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