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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

And Now For More Boston Globe Bashing - IX

The parent company of the Boston Globe (the New York Times) is implementing a 'restructuring' of its' pension plan, which has many journalists' panties in a bunch. As if to parody an arrogant, elitist bunch of snobs, the first guy in this clip is wearing a bowtie like the Tom Oliphant Jr. clone he is.

I hope you Globies are taking this to heart; this shitstorm's coming your way...
New York Times staffers, like suffering proles all over the world, belong to a labor union, and over the years the union has negotiated a very comfy defined benefit retirement plan. The staffers love the plan.

But economic reality is intruding. Times management, perhaps reading the coverage in its own pages about the companies and cities going bankrupt due to unsustainable union-bargained pension systems, wants to make a change. It wants to offer a defined contribution plan, instead. Workers and the company pay into a 401(k) plan, workers invest it, and when they retire, that is the amount they have towards their income.

It’s an entitled blue deer, meet onrushing truck kind of moment. The Guild is talking about a strike, and an array of Times staffers, including some famous bylines that are well known in news circles, worry aloud that the new plan could make them eat cat food and sleep in boxes on the street in old age. (Or late middle age, anyway; not one staffer talks about working past 65.)

Nobody in the video talks about the changes in the news business that threatens to drive the Times into a deep dive. Nobody talks about the prospect of future significant staff cuts if costs can’t be contained. None of them discuss the incongruity between their own naive sense of entitlement and what is going on in the cities, companies and countries they cover.

They just want the money.
I wrote the following two years ago:

It's worth remembering this the next time the Boston Globe / New Your Times editorial writers sanctimoniously lecture you about the virtues of unions while their ownership is simultaneously pissing on their own unions...
I sympathize with the Times staff about living in tougher economic conditions,
That makes one of us...
...but that is what people are adjusting to all over the world; I’m not sure what gives them an exemption. Newspaper reporters of all people should have seen this coming long ago, and have made savings and retirement plans on the assumption that their defined benefit plan would be going the way of the passenger pigeon and sooner rather than later.
I know what they feel gives them an exemption - they are (more or less) pretentious, arrogant pricks with an entitlment mentality the size of Canada. I need only to show you the board's resident Globeophile, Bruce M___, as Exhibit A. I will give him some credit for bailing out on the Titantic Globe and taking the buyout in 2008; any (unlikely) defense by him of his former employer on strictly financial terms should be rightly viewed as self-evident hypocrisy.
If anything, their feelings of regret and chagrin should be tinged with at least a soup├žon of relief. In the end, a defined benefit plan is only as solid as the company behind it, and given the turmoil on today’s media landscape it’s not at all clear where the Times will be or how it will be restructuring its debt 20 years from now. The good thing about a defined contribution plan is that you don’t lose the money if your ex-employer goes broke.
I doubt they'll make it past ten years from now. Time will tell!
For readers, this is a fascinating and revealing glimpse inside the Times bubble. I am not sure which is more disconcerting; the deeply embedded sense of blue entitlement so palpably on display or the poor political judgement that led the union brass to think that releasing this video to the public would be good PR. Either way it serves as a powerful illustration of just how fundamentally out of touch many of the people working at America’s most famous newspaper have become.
This isn't exactly a shock - there are recent examples of General Motors & Chrysler going south in much the same way - entitled employees and stupid, ossified management. I'm sure further research would point out these two dynamics contributing to many a company's demise.
I like and admire many of the people who write for the Times.
I don't know about you, but I'm having trouble coming up with a single name...
Some of them I have known for years and, happily, the judgment and sensibility behind this video doesn’t characterize everyone who works there. But I suspect that most viewers around the world are going to find this video funny and revealing rather than heartfelt and convincing.
I'm in the former camp, I have the video on replay and my amp's cranked up to eleven...

2 comments:

Objec tiveBruce said...

Wages, hours and working conditions are mandatory subjects of collective bargaining. The unions bargained for defined-benefit pensions, the company will have to negotiate their demise.

Very few unrepresented workers have defined benefit pensions. The reason is because they aren't organized to bargain collectively for wages, hours and working conditions.

The company cannot just unilaterally abolish a benefit. Your glowing review of the childish assertion that the members of the union are resisting "a trend they have been chronicling for years" is pure nonsense. Just because other groups of workers failed to organize and failed to protect pension benefits does not mean employees of the Times, The Globe or any other unionized organization must give up benefits because it is a "trend."

(Memo to non-represented workers who ended up with a 401(k) plan when the company unilaterally terminated a pension plan: Enjoying taking the hit for Wall Street's antics?)

The company will try to force a 401(k) existence on future retirees. There will be give and take in bargaining and at some point, a final offer will be on the table.

There are two parties to a collective bargaining contract. Negotiating a good deal does not make one a thug.

Considering your whining about being asked to pay for someone's work product via a pay wall, it is not at all surprising that you would begrudge union workers something for which they negotiated in good faith.

Roger Bournival said...

The company cannot just unilaterally abolish a benefit.

What's to stop the NYT from declaring Chapter 11 reorg? Is the pension plan funded by shares of NYT stock? I'm pretty sure the pension problem insn't the only one that gets resolved with that.

The problem with your last sentence is this - there's a difference between the asking price of an online subscription and what I (and lots of other people) am / are willing to pay for it. Do you really think I have any need for the Globe besides Shank's articles? Do you think the paywall's still up in 3 months at $4 / week? How did Times Select work out again?