New York Times Staffers Plan Massive Walkout Over Union Contract

The strike will empty much of the newsroom as an agreement on compensation remains elusive.
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Unionized staffers at The New York Times are preparing to go on strike Thursday as negotiations with the newspaper’s management have failed to result in a new contract around 20 months after the last contract expired.

More than 1,100 members of The New York Times Guild voted Friday to authorize a strike if both sides did not reach an agreement by Dec. 8.

Wednesday evening, management “walked away from the table a little before 7 p.m. ET and refused to return, with five hours to go,” the Guild said in a statement.

“Though members have acknowledged a slight tone shift at the bargaining table and increased urgency from company representatives, Times management would not agree on core issues,” the group said.

The potential walkout would last 24 hours, beginning at midnight, decimating the newspaper’s workforce as the company faces continued pressure to publish a daily paper and maintain its website. Members of the Guild are encouraging Times readers to steer clear of the site ― everything from the homepage to its recipe section to its games, including the crossword and Wordle ― for the duration of the walkout.

Several staffers posted the same message to Twitter: “Read local news. Listen to public radio. Make something from a cookbook. Break your Wordle streak.”

The unionized staffers are expected to picket outside The New York Times building in midtown Manhattan, with a 1 p.m. rally featuring speakers like journalist Nikole Hannah Jones.

New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha told HuffPost by email that while the company is “disappointed” in the looming strike, “we are prepared to ensure The Times continues to serve our readers without disruption.”

That could prove difficult if, as CNN reported, some desks lose up to 90% of their manpower in the event of a walkout.

Times staffers say the biggest sticking point is how the company refuses to meet the union’s requests to raise salaries.

Rhoades Ha told HuffPost that the company’s latest wage proposal offered “significant increases” from the last contract, which expired in March 2021. Staffers could expect a 5.5% increase upon ratification and an additional 3% increase later in 2023 and 2024.

But many in the Guild say they’re fed up with incremental gains in pay while The New York Times Company has flourished in what has become a harsh economic landscape for news media.

New York Times features writer Shawn McCreesh told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer on Tuesday that’s what has the newsroom up in arms.

“When the pandemic hit, everybody was similarly freaked out and sitting at home on their phones all day long, and subscriptions continued to boom. And now we’re coming out of that era ... and subscriptions are falling flat at other news organizations, but The Times, to its credit, used the momentum from that era to transform the business into something beyond a newspaper,” McCreesh said. “They made other acquisitions. They diversified the revenue stream.”

“It’s sort of the greatest success story in the legacy media these days,” he added. “And that is why the employees really are sort of steamed now.”

Staffers say that last week, they offered to engage with management in a marathon bargaining session lasting even through the weekend to avoid a strike, but the company declined.

Twelve hours of bargaining on Tuesday yielded some welcome results for the unionized staffers.

“Management backed off its attempt to kill our pension and agreed to expand fertility benefits,” the Guild said in a statement on Twitter.

“But management still barely budged on some of our most important priorities,” they continued, naming pay and health care contributions among them.

Disclaimer: The HuffPost Union is currently negotiating a new labor contract with parent company BuzzFeed. BuzzFeed uses the same lawyer as The New York Times Guild.

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