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The Globe's biggest union expels its head

Union Blues Dept.
By ADAM REILLY  |  December 11, 2009

0912_totten_main
What a difference six months make. Back in June, Daniel Totten — then the head of the Boston Newspaper Guild, the Boston Globe's largest union —stood in front of the paper's Morrissey Boulevard headquarters and announced, triumphantly, that the Guild's members had rejected the New York Times Co.'s demand for $10 million in contract concessions. Fast forward to last week, when a jury of Totten's union peers — in an internal union proceeding that members call a "trial" — found him "guilty" of assorted charges (signing another union official's signature on his own paycheck, using his union credit card for $254 of personal expenses, not submitting receipts on time) and expelled him outright from the Guild. (Adding injury to insult, they also fined him 254 bucks.)

Did Totten get a fair shake? After all, he'd irked some union members with his combative approach to negotiations earlier this year. There was already a recall push underway aimed at ending his control of the Guild, but Totten was fighting to keep his job. Had he succeeded, the Guild's members would have found themselves represented during the next crucial round of contract negotiations by the same man who spent 2009 casting the Times Co. (which explored a Globe sale, but ultimately kept the paper) as the Devil incarnate. So might Totten's opponents have used the aforementioned complaints as a way to get rid of him once and for all?

That's certainly Totten's explanation. In an e-mail to the Guild's members, Totten — who refused to appear — said the outcome was tainted by the involvement of individuals who'd previously pushed for his removal, and that the process was a "travesty."

Those responsible for the result, though, say Totten's claim of victimhood doesn't ring true. "We spent nearly four hours looking at the evidence, which was lengthy and very detailed," says Globe reporter Maria Cramer, who chaired the randomly selected board and had previously signed an anti-Totten petition. "I definitely feel we made the right decision . . . and that it was free of politics."

Meanwhile, reporter Sean Murphy, who made the anti-Totten case, notes that he'd actually been considered a Totten ally during the concession fight. "Mr. Totten was not the victim of a political vendetta," Murphy insists. "He was a victim of his own bad judgment."

Totten (who didn't respond to a request for comment) is appealing last week's decision. But his chances of reversal seem slim. Sources tell the Phoenix that a recent Department of Labor audit of the Guild found multiple violations of the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959 under Totten's watch — including the aforementioned check signing. If so, even Totten's sympathizers may find it difficult to blame union politics for his fate.

Related: Fourth-estate follies, 2009 edition, Brave new Globe?, Through a glass darkly, More more >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , Business, Business, Jobs and Labor,  More more >
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