If you live anywhere near the Boston area, you’ve probably heard or read something about the Boston Globe’s recent delivery debacle. Since the newspaper contracted with a new delivery company starting December 28, the entire delivery system collapsed, and subscribers have been puzzled and furious that their daily newspaper has vanished with little explanation and little hope for restoration any time soon. Though it isn’t being reported as such, this is a labor issue.
The new Boston Globe delivery company, ACI Media Group of Long Beach California, has significantly worsened the already difficult, demanding and exploitative working situation of the workers who make newspapers appear on doorsteps across the Commonwealth everyday.
In Lynn, Massachusetts, workers found significant labor and community support for their demands as members of the Lynn Worker Center, the North Shore Labor Council, the New Lynn Coalition, IUE-CWA Local 201, the Lynn City Council and the Lynn School Committee vowed to support their struggle.
Before ACI took over, the delivery workers already worked 365 days a year, starting between 1 am and 4 am, could not miss a day of work unless they arranged for their own replacement, and had to drive hundreds of miles a week, paying for their own gas and car maintenance. Finally, regardless of the severity of a snow emergency or whether the streets had even been plowed, workers were required to show up for their routes
Under the old system, workers (classified as Independent Contractors) for PCF (Publishers Circulation Fulfillment) drove to a distribution center in Lynn where they folded and bagged the Globe, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and various supplements. From there they fanned out around the North Shore, following established delivery routes and distributing the correct paper or papers to each subscriber by 7 am. Until about five years ago, the company offered bonuses of $500 to workers who managed to finish the winter season with a minimum number of subscriber complaints. After a 2008 lawsuit, it implemented a system of accident insurance for workers who were injured on the job.
When ACI came in to take over the Globe delivery, the old intensive routes were broken up. The accident insurance disappeared. Now that workers have only one paper to deliver, the routes are significantly longer, which means more driving and more gas. Many workers lost their jobs, and those who were kept on by PCF are also faced with longer routes to deliver the same number of papers, because of the Globe’s decision. ACI also lowered the pay rate per paper delivered (which under PCF varied from 16 to 20 cents for the daily paper and 30 to 50 for the Sunday paper, depending on the route, with extra for inserts) down to 12 cents per unit. Moreover, ACI consolidated the distribution system, so Lynn and other North Shore workers now have to drive to Woburn to collect their papers. At the old distribution center in Lynn, they folded and bagged their papers inside the facility, with plenty of light, tables, and access to bathrooms. In Woburn, they are forced to do it outdoors in the icy darkness, or awkwardly inside their cars.
In Lynn, Massachusetts, workers found significant labor and community support for their demands as members of the Lynn Worker Center. The North Shore Labor Council, the New Lynn Coalition, IUE-CWA Local 201, the Lynn City Council and the Lynn School Committee vowed to support their struggle. At a January 11th emergency strategy meeting, NSLC President Jeff Crosby, Executive Board Members Fuzzy Herrick and Bob Lennon and NSLC Delegate and Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh showed up to show their solidarity.
Please call the Boston Globe and tell them you stand with delivery workers at 1-888-694-5623 !
For information regarding protests the workers are organizing and what you can do to support them, check back here, or call the Lynn Worker Center executive (857-277-4072) or the North Shore Labor Council (781-595-2538).
(Reporting by Salem State Professor, Author and Historian Avi Chomsky)