One name you haven't seen on anyone's list of NYT personnel taking a management buyout is Art Mulford.
But when Mulford, a longtime newsroom index writer, leaves the paper this month with buyout check in hand, the NYT's Newspaper Guild local will be losing its chairperson. And that loss may end up having serious implications when it comes time for the NYT's layoffs to begin.
Forgotten amid coverage of the NYT's latest labor troubles is a dispute -- still pending -- between NYT management and the guild over a round of layoffs in 2008 that were done out of seniority order. The Guild fought that decision, and that case remains in arbitration.
Many now expect that the company will, once again, ignore seniority when making its latest round of layoff decisions. Indeed, executive editor Bill Keller pledged to do so in a newsroom speech in November:
Let me be very clear about one thing: we intend to use merit to decide who is laid off and who is not. Nobody in the newsroom is going to get laid off solely because they lack seniority, despite what you may have heard. Our contract with the Guild allows us to go out of seniority and make cuts on the basis of merit. That’s what we did last time, and it will be my priority this time.
How the Newspaper Guild unit handles the situation will depend, in part, on who takes Mulford's place. He had been a shop steward at the NYT for more than three decades, and took over as chairperson of the NYT unit in 2006.
The buyouts are also taking with them other leaders in the NYT union contingent. Reporters Neil Lewis and Stephen Labaton in Washington both were active in the Newspaper Guild; so was newsroom editor Carla Baranauckas.
Other key union departures include Richard Kompa, a layout manager -- the Guild unit's 2nd chairperson -- and Nancy Bachrach, an account manager and the unit treasurer, who are both leaving with buyouts.
The implication of these departures isn't clear yet. But when reporters lose their strongest advocates in a possible fight with management over jobs -- no matter what the circumstance -- it can't be good news.