Dec 2, 2022 - Economy

1,000+ NYT union members threaten to walk out

The New York Times building on Oct. 26. Photo: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

More than 1,000 members of the New York Times union, which includes hundreds of newsroom staffers, plan to walk out on the job if the company's management doesn't agree to the terms of a new contract by Dec. 8, the union announced Friday.

Why it matters: The two parties have been at odds for more than a year and a half over a slew of issues, most notably wage increases. Those tensions have hit a boiling point heading into the holiday season.

Driving the news: In a letter sent to management Friday, the NewsGuild of New York reiterated its demands to management, and conveyed a level of frustration over the drawn-out talks.

  • "We have spent more than 120 hours across 40 bargaining sessions exchanging and amending dozens of proposals," the letter states.
  • "We have listened carefully to management’s positions and concerns and have made countless revisions to address them. In return, we have been lectured about the dire economic future the company faces - even as the company tells Wall Street about a successful corporation that can afford to pay millions in salaries and benefits to its top executives."
  • The letter, sent to the Times' publisher, A.G. Sulzberger, and its president and CEO, Meredith Kopit Levien, listed key demands, including a new raise structure, keeping pension plan policies intact and changes to performance evaluations.

Between the lines: A big part of the union's argument has long been that the Times' management has refused to bring adequate wage increase proposals to the negotiating table, despite the fact that the Times is doing better financially than it has in many years and continues to increase dividend payouts to shareholders.

  • "In 2022, the @nytimes spent millions of dollars to purchase Wordle and The Athletic and allocated $150 million in stock buybacks to its investors," a tweet from the guild read. "And yet it is still offering wage 'increases' that amount to pay cuts during record-high inflation."
  • The letter sent Friday represents more than 1,036 union members represented by guild. Each has signed a pledge that gives the guild's bargaining committee the authority "to call for and schedule a 24-hour work stoppage" if the two sides don't make progress at the bargaining table.

What they're saying: "While we are disappointed that the NewsGuild is threatening to strike, we are prepared to ensure The Times continues to serve our readers without disruption," a New York Times spokesperson said in a statement provided to Axios. "We remain committed to working with the NYT NewsGuild to reach a contract that we can all be proud of."

  • "Our current wage proposal offers significant increases. The majority of members of the bargaining unit would earn 50 percent or more in additional earnings over the life of the new contract than they would have if the old contract had continued," the spokesperson said. "Moreover, our accompanying medical and retirement proposals offer sustainable, best-in-class options for Guild members."
  • "For additional context, under our latest proposal, a reporter in the union making $120,000, which is slightly below the median base salary in the unit, would get about $33,000 in additional earnings during the life of the new contract — or 57 percent more than if the old contract had continued," the spokesperson said. "A reporter in the union making $160,000 would get about $44,000 in additional earnings during the life of the new contract or 108 percent more than if the prior contract had continued."

Catch up quick: The guild's last contract with management expired in March 2021. Since then, the two parties have been regularly meeting to discuss a new contract, but as the talks have dragged on, the tension has become more palpable.

Be smart: This isn't the first time unionized employees at the Times have walked out or threatened to walk out.

  • Hundreds of employees staged a walkout in 2017 over the company's decision to eliminate its standalone copy desk.
  • Last year, the union representing employees at the Times' consumer reviews site, Wirecutter, held a five-day walkout in protest of management's negotiations with its union.

The big picture: Walk-outs, strikes and work stoppages have become more common in recent months as editorial workers look to secure better contracts in the wake of the pandemic.

Editor's note: This story was updated with a statement from a New York Times spokesperson.

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