Our not so favorite billionaire | Fan of Contrarian Boston? Get your paid subscription now! | Labor strife in the classroom | Kastle grilled over office occupancy reports | CB ahead of the curve on SVB |
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Picket lines outside of every school? Woburn mayor offers warning
Recent teachers strikes in Woburn, Haverhill and Malden left thousands of parents scrambling while racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in police details and other costs.
But strikes like these, still unusual, could become commonplace in Massachusetts should the state’s teachers union get its way, contends Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin.
The upsurge in strike activity has come amid the arrival of new and radicalized leadership at the Massachusetts Teachers Association, with Max Page, the union’s president, taken to spouting off about the “capitalist class” and its “need for profits.”
The powerful union is lobbying on Beacon Hill to demolish the legal prohibition against strikes by teachers, who, like police and firefighters, provide a vital public service.
While local media coverage has mostly taken the union’s claims at face value, there has been little if any reporting on the kind of disruption that giving a green light to strikes by teachers would create, both in the classroom and in the lives of already overstretched parents.
“It would make it ten times worse,” Galvin told Contrarian Boston. “If it’s legalized and they are given the right to strike for more than a week . . . at a certain point, you end up making a deal that is not sustainable for the city.”
Woburn Mayor Scott Galvin: No fan of teachers’ strikes
Public employee unions already have a fair amount of leverage under the state’s collective bargaining laws, notes Geoff Beckwith, executive director of the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
“That changes the balance of power at the bargaining table,” said Beckwith of the push to legalize strikes by teachers.
We reached out by phone and email to the MTA’s communications staff. We’ll let you know if we hear back.
ATTENTION READERS: Paid Contrarian Boston subscriptions start at the end of the day Wednesday!
We want to remind readers that Contrarian Boston will be switching to a paid subscription model at the close of business on Wednesday, March 15. After March 15, you'll still be able to get some content for free, but most content will be behind a paid-subscription firewall. Contrarian Boston needs to take this step if we're to going to survive and thrive. We need your support. Please click on the paid-subscription buttons below. And please read the item towards the bottom of this post on why we need to go with paid subscriptions. Thank you for your support!
Unflattering facts? Boston’s biggest commercial landlords take aim at firm that tallies just how much office space is actually being used
Is the office market half full, or half empty? We guess it depends on who you ask.
Boston Properties and Synergy, two of the city’s largest owners of office buildings and towers, would argue that their properties, which include top-shelf addresses like the Hancock Tower, are well more than half full.
And the two real estate giants have a bone to pick with Kastle, a Virginia-based company which tracks office market “occupancy,” or, in other words, how many people are actually showing their face at the office in our brave new world of remote work.
I did a deep dive on the dispute in my weekly Banker & Tradesman column, but here’s the upshot: Boston Properties and Synergy, at a recent NAIOP Massachusetts conference, took dead aim at the accuracy of Kastle’s reporting, noting that the company does not have access to data in any of their buildings.
That’s a lot of real estate, with the two real companies owning a portfolio of tens of million of square feet of office space, not just in Boston, but in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
Hancock Tower - one of Boston Properties crown jewels
“There is just so much noise – every day there is a story about people not coming back, and the data source is Kastle Systems,” David Provost, senior vice president of leasing at Boston Properties, told the crowd at NAIOP Massachusetts’ recent Future of the Office event.
“What’s unclear to me is who is Kastle Systems and what are they comparing their numbers to,” Provost said.
Two more reasons for Starbucks’ whiny billionaire boss to tear his hair out
Baristas at two more local Starbucks shops are poised to join the labor movement.
Java slingers at 259 Center St. in Newton and 711 Somerville Ave. in Somerville have filed petitions to hold union elections, according to the National Labor Relations Board.
A March 31 vote is slated at the Newton shop, while the date for the vote at the Starbucks in Somerville was not available at press time.
It’s amazing to think that Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz considered running for president as a Democrat back in 2018.
Back then, he still had a reputation as an enlightened capitalist, trying to do good by his workers.
Not so much anymore.
Under Schultz’s watch, Starbucks has wielded all sorts questionable tactics to prevent its workers from organizing, including a pattern of the chain’s java shops mysteriously closing after the baristas voted to join a union.
But even worse has been Schultz’s tone-deaf, self-pitying diatribes about how good a boss he has been, blaming labor unrest at Starbucks on malevolent, outside forces determined to take over his company.
Given how tough it is in the United States of 2023 to form a union, the fact that a significant numbers of Starbucks workers feel like they have nothing else to lose should have been a wake up and smell the coffee moment for Schultz.
Instead, he can now look forward to getting grilled by Sen. Bernie Sanders, head of the Senate’s labor committee, at an upcoming hearing on March 29.
Can’t wait for the highlight reel.
Contrarian Boston ahead of the curve in reporting on the impact of SVB’s collapse on the life sciences sector
Just call it a case of barking up the wrong tree. The initial stories in the local media on Silicon Valley Bank’s implosion focused on its role in lending to tech startups.
Contrarian Boston, in its Saturday edition, was the first news site in the Boston area to report that the bank’s demise would also have serious repercussions for the life sciences sector.
In fact, SVB is a major lender in the biotech and life sciences sector, which, frankly, is a much bigger deal for Greater Boston than the impact on tech startups.
Irate SVB customers waiting outside the bank’s Wellesley branch
We received further confirmation of this on Monday, when we interviewed some of the bank’s unhappy customers lined up outside SVB’s Wellesley branch. Of the three people who agreed to be interviewed, one was with a biotech and another worked for a medical device company.
The third was a 20-year-customer of the bank whose husband works in the tech sector and who described herself to CB as simply “dumbfounded” by SVB’s overnight collapse.
“I am cleaning it all out,” she said of her deposits.
Why Contrarian Boston will require paid subscriptions to access all content by the close of business on Wednesday, March 15
We launched Contrarian Boston in November 2021 with the hope of shaking things up a bit.
Tired of what we saw as conformist local journalism, we were intent on filling a void in our local media ecosystem by offering critical, consistent, common-sense, and fair coverage of our local corporate, governmental, and media institutions.
At Contrarian Boston, we have focused our coverage on the issues that demand more thoughtful reporting. Reflecting our journalistic background, Contrarian Boston has indeed focused on regional development, real estate and housing issues.
But we’ve also tackled other stories, such as our crumbling transportation infrastructure, our changing energy needs, our underperforming educational system, and the rise of ideological extremists in our state political parties.
What we have found has been heartening: An appetite for a new source of news, analysis and opinion that does its best to call things as they are, regardless of whether it annoys the players in our state’s insider-dominated political culture.
Our list of potential stories is overflowing with tips from readers, more than a few of whom we have gotten to know over the past 15 months. Our stories and reporting have been cited by The Boston Globe, Boston Herald, CommonWealth Magazine, and State House News Service.
To date, Contrarian Boston has been a labor of love, but like you, we need to pay the bills as well.
The reporting, writing and editing needed to produce Contrarian Boston two to three times a week has essentially become a full-time job.
We could use your help.
A subscription of $8 a month, or a discounted $80 per year, will keep CB going.
Some content will remain free, while paid subscribers will have full access to everything we produce, including a forthcoming online chat thread.
Committed Contrarians can also pledge $150 or more to become a member of the Founders’ Lounge, where we will gather via quarterly Zoom calls so you can tell us what issues, and people, you want us to pay attention to, and for us to provide you with updates on developing stories.
Contrarian Boston needs your support to keep delivering a point of view that is sorely missing from the news these days. If you have other questions or ideas, don’t hesitate to email us.
Sincerely, Scott Van Voorhis