Updated Dec 8, 2022 - Economy

Over 1,100 New York Times staffers walk out after union talks fail

Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

More than 1,100 members of the New York Times union walked out on the job Thursday morning after more than a year and a half of stalled contract negotiations with The Times' management.

Why it matters: The walkout represents a breaking point between the two parties, which have been debating new contract terms since the guild's last contract expired in March 2021.

  • The walkout began at midnight on Thursday.
  • The talks have become more contentious in recent months, with union members growing increasingly frustrated with what they see as a lack of serious engagement from Times management.
  • In an email to staff, Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien addressed the unprecedented nature of the walkout, writing; "This will be the bargaining unit’s first strike in more than 40 years."

By the numbers: The union, which is represented by the NewsGuild of New York, includes more than 1,400 business and editorial staffers at The Times.

  • The vast majority (around 80%) of union members work in the newsroom, according to Bill Baker, unit chair for the union at The Times.
  • As of Wednesday evening, nearly 1150 of the 1,400 had signed a pledge to walk out Thursday, Baker said, up from more than 1,000 last Friday.

What they're saying: The Times' guild confirmed late Wednesday evening that union members will officially walk out for 24 hours, after last-ditch efforts to come to an agreement with management failed.

  • "Today we were ready to work for as long as it took to reach a fair deal, but management walked away from the table with five hours to go," The guild tweeted.

In a statement, a Times spokesperson argued that talks are still ongoing and that the two sides are not deadlocked.

  • "It is disappointing that they are taking such an extreme action when we are not at an impasse."
  • The company remains "committed to continuing to serve our readers and are prepared to do so without disruption," the spokesperson added.
  • The Times' executive editor Joseph Kahn said in an email to staff obtained by Axios that the company "will produce a robust report on Thursday," but said "it will be harder than usual."
  • He added that he was "disappointed that we have reached this point."

Catch up quick: The union announced its intention to walk out last Friday, after months of contentious debate.

  • In a letter sent to management that day, the guild reiterated its frustration with the drawn-out negotiations.
  • "We have spent more than 120 hours across 40 bargaining sessions exchanging and amending dozens of proposals," the letter said.

Between the lines: The biggest sticking point between the two sides has been wage increases.

  • Other issues that have been a part of the contract negotiations include pension plans, changes to performance evaluations and remote work policies.

Be smart: The guild has long argued that 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.

  • In her note to staff, Kopit Levien pushed back on that notion, arguing that The Times' management has shown a "clear commitment" to negotiating a contract "that provides Times journalists with substantial pay increase, market-leading benefits, and flexible working conditions."

The big picture: Tensions between labor unions and news management teams have grown more palpable in the wake of the pandemic, resulting in more walk-outs, strikes and work stoppages.

  • Pandemic-era changes to work-from-home policies, new expectations around diversity, equity and inclusion and rising inflation have driven a huge number of newsrooms to unionize in the past two years.
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