New York Times Reporters and Editors Will Go on Strike Thursday

From a New York Times story headlined “New York Times Union Announces One-Day Strike”:

Reporters and editors at The New York Times announced they would go on a one-day strike on Thursday, saying talks between their union and the company had dragged on and showed limited progress.

The contract between The Times and The New York Times Guild expired in March 2021, and about 40 bargaining sessions have been held since. Negotiators have failed to come to an agreement on salaries, health and retirement benefits, and other issues.

More than 1,100 employees signed a pledge to strike for 24 hours. The union negotiating the contract, which is part of the NewsGuild of New York, represents about 1,450 employees in the newsroom, advertising and other areas of the company. More than 1,800 people work in The Times’s newsroom.

The union accused The Times of bargaining in bad faith.

“Their wage proposal still fails to meet the economic moment, lagging far behind both inflation and the average rate of wage gains in the U.S.,” the union said in its announcement that it would strike.

In a note to the newsroom, Joe Kahn, the executive editor of The Times, said he was disappointed with the union’s decision.

“Strikes typically happen when talks deadlock. That is not where we are today,” Mr. Kahn said. “While the company and the NewsGuild remain apart on a number of issues, we continue to trade proposals and make progress toward an agreement.”

Compensation remains the most contentious aspect of the negotiations. The Times has offered union members a 5.5 percent raise upon ratification of the contract, 3 percent raises in 2023 and 2024, and a 4 percent retroactive bonus to compensate for a lack of raises since the contract expired. The union has proposed a 10 percent raise upon ratification, 5.5 percent raises in 2023 and 2024, and an 8.5 percent retroactive bonus.

Other issues discussed during talks include return-to-work policies and the company’s performance rating system for employees. In a study it released in August, the union said the system was discriminatory.

“White Guild members were more likely to get the top ratings,” the study stated, “while Black and Hispanic members were more likely to get the lowest two ratings.”

After the union released that report, a team of senior managers at The Times studied ways to improve the rating process. In October, Marc Lacey, a managing editor, announced plans to update it.

“Our ultimate aim is to have a simpler system that everyone applies fairly and consistently, and to focus more on thoughtful feedback than ratings,” Mr. Lacey wrote.

During the walkout, nonunion newsroom employees will largely be responsible for producing the news report.

“We will produce a robust report on Thursday,” Mr. Kahn wrote in his email to the newsroom. “But it will be harder than usual.”

Facing a slowdown in advertising and an uncertain economic outlook, some media organizations have cut staff in recent weeks, including CNN, BuzzFeed and the Gannett newspaper chain. During its negotiations with The Times, union negotiators have argued that reporters and editors are struggling with inflation as the company produces healthy operating profits.

Meredith Kopit Levien, chief executive of The Times, wrote in a companywide email that investments in the news report had resulted in high-paying, secure jobs for many journalists. She said that profits had not caught up to where they were decades ago.

“Those investments are possible because of the great care we’ve taken as a company over the last decade to work our way back to economic growth in a radically transforming industry,” Ms. Levien said. “We’ve done so by making financial decisions that are sustainable not just in the moment, but for years to come.”

Times journalists have rarely gone on strike. They did so for less than a day in 1981, and there was a brief walkout in 2017 to protest the elimination of the copy desk. No labor action has stopped publication of The Times since a strike of pressmen and others in 1978, which lasted 88 days.

The union has planned a demonstration outside The Times’s headquarters in New York on Thursday afternoon.

From CNN’s Reliable Sources:

A Historic Walkout: A 24-hour strike at The New York Times, in which more than 1,100 employees are expected to participate, is set to begin Thursday at midnight, after management and the NewsGuild failed to reach an agreement for a new contract. The act of protest, which has not been staged by employees at the newspaper of record in decades, will leave many of its major desks depleted of their staffs. Executive Editor Joe Kahn acknowledged in a note to staff it “will be harder than usual” to “produce a robust report,” but said it would get done. I’m told The NYT will rely on other resources, such as its international staff which largely are not part of the union, to keep the news flowing. More in my story here.

Zooming in: Management at The NYT has grown frustrated with how the NewsGuild has sought to conduct negotiations. An executive I spoke with said the NewsGuild “refuse[s] to meet in person” and insists on negotiating over Zoom with upwards of 200 people watching. “Negotiations are essentially public And that changes the whole dynamic of negotiations,” the executive told me. “It becomes very performative and very theatrical. It’s really hard to get things done. It’s like a show.” NewsGuild chief Susan DeCarava countered, telling me, “Union democracy is crucial to union power. That is why we don’t do closed-door negotiations, which management continues to demand.”

Zooming out: The strike comes as the Gray Lady and the NewsGuild of New York remain at odds over a number of issues, particularly wages, amid a backdrop of layoffs and cuts across the media industry. In recent weeks, CNN laid off hundreds of staffers, Gannett cut 200 employees, NPR said it will need to find $10 million in savings, The Washington Post has shut down its Sunday magazine, and other news organizations have explored the need to trim budgets and freeze hiring.

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