Boston Globe reporter votes no to cuts
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Tess Vigeland: Journalists at the Boston Globe find themselves at the center of their own story today. Members of the newspaper guild are voting on a contract offer that includes a 8 percent pay cut and makes significant edits to health and retirement benefits. The Globe’s parent company — the New York Times — says it needs $20 million in cuts to keep the paper in print. And it’s threatened to slash salaries by almost 25 percent if the contract isn’t approved. We wanted to hear from someone who did vote no today, so we’re joined by 17-year veteran reporter Scott Allen. Hi Scott.
SCOTT ALLEN: Needless to say, it was probably the hardest vote I’ve ever cast. But the New York Times has asked from us more than I think most people can reasonably shoulder after a four-year pay freeze already. And we all understand really well that they need concessions, that they’re in bad shape, they need money. We want to help them, but they didn’t do anything in putting this package together aimed at softening the blow for the employees. They didn’t want more work from us, they didn’t want less holidays, they didn’t want fewer vacations, anything we could have offered besides just our money, they were uninterested. And I feel like they were insensitive to a lot of people who have already sacrificed quite a bit for them.
Vigeland: But I wonder if you could let us into your head for a minute. Because when you’re making this decision, you know full well that there is an ax hanging over your head as you vote, which is that the Times company has said that it will force a 23 percent pay cut if this vote doesn’t go through. So the pay cuts and the layoffs could turn out to be worse than the plan that you’re voting on.
ALLEN: I think that the company is just as afraid of the effects of the pay cut as we are. I mean I dread the idea of losing a quarter of my weekly income. But they’re very worried about trying to manage a news staff that is going through the kind of deep cuts and the bitterness that is going to follow that would happen if we had a 23 percent pay cut. But I would argue that both sides, labor and management, have a good reason to find a compromise and to work out a package that is just a little bit less painful to us who’ve already been through four years of not a single dollar pay increase.
Vigeland: Then how, again, how do you make that decision? Kinda by taking a stand that this package is not fair, you could hurt yourself financially.
ALLEN: Yes, but I’m hurting myself financially no matter what I do, Tess. The package that I voted on today, if it is approved, it’ll cost me $19,000 in pay cuts and lost benefits over the next year, so that’s a lot that they’re asking from us. So, yes, it’s a risk, but I think there’s a really important point that gets lost as people fight these labor management battles. We’re actually not that far apart. There’s a large number of the employees who just say if you can find a way to make the pay cut not quite so deep, we’d all vote yes.
Vigeland: And finally, I have to ask you, I wonder what’s it like to become the story, instead of reporting it?
ALLEN: I have a great deal more respect for public relation officials, than I did two or three months ago. It’s not a position that I want to be in. I’d like to get back to the business of writing down notes, and running the tape recorder myself instead of answering these questions. But it’s a really important story; it’s about not just the Boston Globe, but it’s about how are we in American are going to get our news and information, and it’s changing very rapidly. And right now a major American paper is on the brink, and it’s an important story. And I’m happy to play the role of source instead of reporter, even if it makes me uncomfortable.
Vigeland: Scott Allen is a reporter for the Boston Globe. Scott, thanks for being a source for us.
ALLEN: Oh, my pleasure.
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