Workers for The New York Times are staging the outlet’s largest work stoppage in over 40 years, with over 1,100 employees walking out on Thursday for a 24-hour strike, demanding a fairer share of the outlets’ financial success as months of contract negotiations come to a head.
After a marathon negotiation session on Tuesday and Wednesday, members of the New York Times Guild decided to walk out, with the union saying that management isn’t bargaining in good faith and remains unwilling to budge on key issues like wages and benefits.
The union said in a statement last week that management has been “dragging its feet” in bargaining. In the letter, signed by over 1,000 employees, the union says that the company’s wage offers have been “stingy,” management has threatened to cut their pension and health care, and negotiators have refused the union’s efforts to address racism in the company’s performance evaluation system.
The union is fighting for raises that amount to a 5.25 percent average raise over a four-year period. As of Tuesday, management offered half of that — not enough to cover inflationary costs. Management also takes issue with the fact that some union members are video conferencing into negotiations, a practice of “open bargaining” that the NewsGuild of New York, the parent union of the Times Guild, says allows a more democratic and transparent process for contract negotiations.
“When [New York Times] management comes to the bargaining table with their insulting and disrespectful offers, they have to explain it to a room full of their own employees — and they hate it,” the NewsGuild wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.
Departments across the company have been affected by the strike as journalists, marketing staff, security guards, and other workers represented by the union walk out; some desks have lost 90 percent of their workforce, the union said, while some departments will be vacated of Times Guild members entirely. “[T]his was management’s choice,” the union wrote in a tweet on Thursday.
The union is asking that readers not cross the digital picket line during their one-day strike, refraining from reading articles, playing games like Wordle or the crossword, or listening to the outlet’s podcasts like The Daily. Dozens of freelance writers for the paper and members of the New York Times Tech Guild are also participating in the strike in solidarity with the union.
“For the past 20 months we have asked New York Times management, over and over, to bargain in good faith for a new union contract and to provide employees our fair share of the revenue the company has earned from all of our hard and diligent work,” the union wrote in a letter to readers on Thursday. Union members at The New York Times have been without a union contract since March of 2021.
“This is not a decision we take lightly,” the union continued. “Our fight to ensure a living wage for the most vulnerable of us and fair pay for everyone, for evaluations free of racial bias and to protect our health care is really about the future of journalism at The New York Times.”
New York Times president and chief executive Meredith Kopit Levien called the union’s decision to walk out “disappointing” in an email to employees on Wednesday night.
For the union, the contract dispute is underscored by the fact that the company has been doing well financially, even as other media companies like CNN and Gannett are undergoing mass layoffs. Executives have projected that, even after its $550 million acquisition of sports site The Athletic this year, the outlet will make a profit of about $330 million by the end of 2022 — profits that workers say they created for the company and of which they should get a share.
“I’ve worked at the New York Times for almost 23 years — most of my adult life. It’s not just my job: the values and principles of the paper are part of who I am, and I know the same is true for many of my coworkers. In hard times, we were willing to sacrifice to ensure the paper’s survival, and we push ourselves and one another every day to make sure the Times lives up to its highest ideals,” said New York Times film critic A.O. Scott in a statement. “That’s why it’s so dismaying to see our concerns and aspirations treated so dismissively by management, and our contributions disrespected.”
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