The situation at the New York Times is "at the threshold of crisis" over contract negotiations, according to staffers who told the paper's management that they "will accept nothing less" than their demands.
The New York Observer reported that about 200 staffers met Monday to discuss how to respond to the stalemate in negotiations. Bill O’Meara, president of the Newspaper Guild of New York, said that the paper's management has made some concessions but that they are not enough, and asked the crowd to mobilize.
The actions he proposed included chanting in the lobby, demonstrating outside the building or setting up the inflatable rat outside. O'Meara was clear, however, that they "are not planning a strike," which he called "a nuclear weapon." Several staffers at the meeting, according to the Observer, spoke out in support of his call for collective action.
Union members have been working without a contract for eighteen months now, and the negotiations — which have been marked by silent protests and videos featuring angry journalists — have gotten increasingly tumultuous. There has been some movement in the dealings, but the biggest sticking point remains the New York Times' call to cut employee pensions.
On Monday, staffers also signed a letter to publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr., executive editor Jill Abramson and incoming CEO Mark Thompson — at least the second addressed to management during the negotiations — suggesting that they are near a tipping point.
"This generation of Times journalists has more than earned fair wages and benefits," the letter reads. "The next generation expects them. You will need that generation every bit as much as you needed – and need – this one. We will accept nothing less."
The Guild had more gloomy news on Tuesday, reporting back from the most recent negotiation session. The organization's email to union members said that the session, which was scheduled to span four hours, actually lasted half an hour. The update also said that Bernard Plum, the lawyer representing the paper's management, told the Guild, “You’re not going to see further big movement on our part.” The next session will take place Thursday.
CORRECTION: The meeting took place on Monday, not Tuesday as the article originally stated.