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Did the Globe Just Commit Suicide?

So just what did the guild's 'No' decision, by a razor-thin 12 votes, mean for the future of the Boston Globe?

Almost a suicide, notes Alex Jones, a former New York Times staffer writing in the Daily Beast:

Alas, in this case, the situation was like mouthing off to a cop. It may offer momentary satisfaction, but you pay a severe price. One can only imagine the conversations between spouses in the wake of the "no" vote as the reality of what has been unleashed hit home.

Looked at objectively, The Globe's unions have almost no leverage. The Guild, which is the only large union at the paper to defy the Times Company's demands, has begun a legal battle in federal court to stop the wage cut, but that is unlikely to succeed. The Times justified imposing the cut by declaring negotiations at an impasse, and fighting that in the courts can easily take years and be very expensive. The prospect of getting the Times to negotiate a better deal is all but nil, because doing so would require reopening negotiations with all the other unions.

A strike would be suicidal. And everyone--including the Guild members who voted "no"--recognizes that this is not a situation in which the company is protecting profits that it refuses to share but one in which the goal is to stem catastrophic losses.

The New York Times Co., after unilaterally imposing a 23% paycut on guild employees following the 'No' vote, has put the paper up for sale. But given that the Globe will lose an estimated $135 million over 2008 and '09, plus the ongoing labor dispute, it's doubtful that a viable buyer would emerge quickly. The Times paid over $1 billion when it acquired the Globe in 1993. Now the paper is worth less than $20 million.

The guild has asked the company to reopen negotiations, but so far, management has rejected such calls. Members of the guild have gone as far as pleading with NYT Co. chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr., long a champion of labor causes, but it was met with a terse rebuttal.

"We are now left with no alternative other than to proceed with the wage reduction," Sulzberger wrote in an e-mail. "Without that, the Globe will be unable to effectuate the savings already ratified by its other unions, in which case it simply cannot survive."