Boston Newspaper Guild holds rally at WBUR event calling for new contracts for Boston Globe workers

Protestors hold signs outside WBUR studio

Dakota Castro-Jarrett

Protestors from the Boston Newspaper Guild hold signs outside the WBUR station.

Dakota Castro-Jarrett, news correspondent

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, close to a hundred Boston Newspaper Guild, or BNG, union members in red and white shirts marched down St. Paul Street to join an already developing protest in front of the WBUR station in the Allston neighborhood of Boston.

The rally was organized in response to the “Trailblazers: Women News Leaders from Katherine Graham to Today” panel hosted by WBUR, an event intended to highlight “the progress women have made as leaders in news media throughout history and particularly in the last year,” according to the event’s page on WBUR’s website

The rally had little to do with the event’s subject, but rather with the presence of one of the panelists for the discussion, Linda Pizzuti Henry the CEO of Boston Globe Media, the company that owns the Boston Globe as well as and STAT News

“Not much trailblazing is happening,” said Kevin Slane, a staff writer from and a recording secretary for the BNG, when asked about Henry’s time as CEO of the Boston Globe.

Under Henry’s leadership of the Boston Globe, the contract for Boston Globe writers expired nearly 1,000 days ago at the end of 2018. The lack of contract has allowed Henry and the other owners and executives of The Boston Globe, including Henry’s husband and owner of the Red Sox, John W. Henry, to use practices such as outsourcing that BNG employees said are hurting the working conditions and pushing many skilled journalists away from the highly-regarded newspaper. 

The BNG is determined to get a new contract that can give Globe workers the protections they feel are being denied to them. At the same time, the owners of The Boston Globe wish to continue using the practices that have been most profitable to them. This has left the contract negotiations in a stalemate, which has been heightened by the owners and executives of the Boston Globe hiring the law firm Jones Day to handle contract negotiations. 

Slane, who is also on the bargaining committee for the BNG representing the BNG in contract negotiations, expressed frustration with the company’s decision to hire Jones Day.

 “The proposals we receive from the company are unacceptable,” Slane said, “[and] bargaining agreements have solely happened with lawyers specialized in busting media unions.” 

Jones Day has an extended history of working with media companies to address the recent rise in union organizing that has happened with many news outlets across the country, and has been called by the Columbia Journalism Review “a go-to for media executives facing union drive.” 

The BNG is critical of Jones Day for its involvement in former president Donald Trump’s attempt to challenge the results of the 2020 election as well as the role they played as his main campaign law firm. 

Boston Globe Media’s choice to hire Jones Day has also been a focus of criticism for the BNG because of the heavy financial cost of the law firm to the company. 

While the rally mainly focused on these critiques of Henry’s leadership, another important part of the rally was focused on another major panelist at this event, Gloria Steinem.

In an open letter to Steinem, the BNG called on the renowned feminist to speak out. Steinem has a history of fighting for labor rights as the founder of the Coalition of Labor Union Women, an organization that helps advocate for women-related issues within the labor movement. 

“As a co-founder of Ms. Magazine and feminist icon, you’ve been a powerful advocate for women’s empowerment, for civil rights, and for union organization,” Globe employees wrote in the letter. “We don’t need to explain to you why a fair contract is so important, — it’s something you already know as a founder of the Coalition of Labor Union Women. Our question for you is this: Can you help us, by speaking out at the WBUR event and urging Globe ownership to do better?”

The letter also drew attention to the history and connection between workers’ rights and women’s rights, a connection noted by rally-goers. One of the signs carried by BNG members during the rally read “Feminists for Fair Contracts Now.” 

“The ability for workers to have good job security is essential. and that is especially true for women who have had to fight hard to win the right to work,” said Felice Freyer, a member of the BNG and Globe reporter focused on health policy and public health. 

Despite the open letter and the rally, Steinem did not speak on the contract struggle. The BNG seemed unfazed by this on Twitter, and on their social media one can see numerous posts about the success of the rally, as well as a recent endorsement from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Boston Mayor Ed Markey. Slane, for one, is optimistic about the energy and resolve demonstrated by members of the BNG.

“We will continue to negotiate and hope that [Boston Globe Media Partners] will listen,” Slane said.