NEW YORK ― Over 1,000 New York Times reporters, editors and staffers stopped working all day Thursday as a long-running contract dispute over their worth to the company came to a head.
The success of The New York Times during a period of ongoing turmoil for the news media ecosphere has the unionized staffers frustrated with what they say are stingy offers from the company, which employs people in one of the world’s most expensive cities. In a time of record inflation, Times staffers are demanding higher salary floors for their lowest-paid workers and more substantial health care contributions, among other issues.
The Guild’s last agreement expired in March 2021, meaning that they have been working with management on a new one for around 20 months.
A couple of the paper’s biggest names, including White House reporters Peter Baker and Michael Shear, crossed the picket line to continue work, Semafor was first to report.
But others, including Nikole Hannah-Jones and Maggie Haberman, joined the strike.
Future work stoppages are also on the table pending contract negotiations. Picketers outside the Times’ midtown Manhattan headquarters on Thursday afternoon could be heard shouting: “If we don’t get it, shut it down!”
“Today I walked off a job I love,” national reporter Dana Goldstein wrote on Twitter.
“Raising both the floor and the ceiling of NYT salaries is an investment in the quality journalism that makes democracy work. You shouldn’t need a trust fund or higher-earning partner to build a long career at the Times,” Goldstein said. “You should be able to do it with student debt.”
A common criticism within the journalism industry is how difficult it can be to gain experience when starting pay is often very low or, in the case of some internships, nonexistent, and it can take many years to see a meaningful pay increase.
Susan DeCarava, president of NewsGuild of New York, rattled off costly moves the company was able to make while denying Guild members the contract they sought, like “double dividends” to stockholders, a bump in executive compensation “by over 30%” and $150 million spent on stock buybacks. The Guild says that the stock authorization, announced in February, cost more than its entire multi-year contract proposals.
The Times, DeCarava said, was “not living up to its values.”
The crowd of Guild members rallied outside of the Times headquarters next to a giant inflatable rat with bright red eyes ― a symbol of labor disputes.
Hannah-Jones spoke briefly to the crowd about her own previous experience working multiple jobs in the news industry to pay the bills.
“When this paper struggled, all of us had to share in its austerity ... all of us deserve to share in its success,” she told the crowd, sparking cheers.
A longtime editor, Tom Coffey, shared a personal anecdote about marking his 25th anniversary with the newspaper over the summer. To honor the occasion, Coffey said, the Times sent him a tote bag.
“I don’t want to hate on the tote bag, it’s a very nice tote bag, I appreciate it,” he said. But he added: “I don’t need knick-knacks. I need a raise.”
The Guild members asked readers to avoid any New York Times–produced content on Thursday.
“Read local news. Listen to public radio. Make something from a cookbook. Break your Wordle streak,” the Guild said in a statement echoed by many members on social media.
The New York Times Company defended its offers when reached for comment on Wednesday evening, pointing to the increases over the life of the contract.
The company’s leadership has also criticized the Guild’s culture of open bargaining ― meaning that all members of the Guild are welcome to sit in on bargaining sessions with management and their lawyers.
Asked on Thursday how the Times was managing to keep up with the news, a spokeswoman repeated a line from an earlier statement: “We’re committed to continuing to serve our readers and are prepared to do so without disruption.”