NYT journalists, workers on 24-hour strike for ‘better newsroom’
Hundreds of journalists and other New York Times employees have begun a 24-hour strike, the paper’s first strike of its kind in more than 40 years.
Newsroom staff and other members of The NewsGuild of New York – the union for news professionals in the media capital of the United States – said they had had enough of the negotiations that have dragged on since their last contract expired in March 2021.
The union announced last week that more than 1,100 workers would introduce a 24-hour work stoppage at 12:01 a.m. Thursday. [05:01 GMT] unless the two parties reach a contract agreement.
The NewsGuild tweeted Thursday morning that employees are “now officially on layoff, the first of this magnitude at the company in 4 decades.”
“It’s never an easy decision to refuse to do work you love, but our members are willing to do whatever it takes to win a better newsroom for everyone,” it said.
More than 1,100 New York Times employees are now officially on layoff, the first of this magnitude at the company in 4 decades. It’s never an easy decision to refuse to do work you love, but our members are willing to do whatever it takes to win a better newsroom for everyone. #GuildStrong!
— NewsGuild of New York (@nyguild) December 8, 2022
Negotiations took place on Tuesday and Wednesday, but the sides remained far apart on issues such as wage increases and remote work policies.
On Wednesday evening, the union announced via Twitter that no deal had been reached and that the strike was ongoing. “We were ready to work as long as it took to get a fair deal,” it said, “but management walked away from the table with five hours to go.
“We know our worth,” the union added.
New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha said in a statement that they were still negotiating when they were told the strike would take place.
“It is disappointing that they are taking such an extreme action when we are not in an impasse,” she said.
It was unclear how Thursday’s coverage would be affected, but supporters of the strike include members of the fast-paced live news desk, which covers breaking news for the digital newspaper.
Employees scheduled a meeting for that afternoon outside the newspaper’s offices near Times Square.
Rhoades Ha told The Associated Press that the company has “solid plans” to continue producing content, including relying on international reporters and other non-union journalists.
In a note sent to staff represented by the guild on Tuesday night, deputy editor Cliff Levy called the planned strike “mysterious” and “a disturbing moment in the negotiations for a new contract.”
He said it would be the negotiating unit’s first strike since 1981 and “comes despite increasing efforts by the company to make progress”.
But in a letter signed by more than 1,000 employees, the NewsGuild said management has been “dragging” with negotiations for nearly two years and “running out of time to get to a fair contract by the end of the year.”
The NewsGuild also said the company had told workers planning to strike that they would not be paid for the duration of the strike. Members were also asked to work extra hours to get work done ahead of the strike, the union said.
The New York Times has seen other shorter strikes in recent years, including a half-day protest in August by a new union representing tech workers who claimed unfair labor practices.
In a breakthrough that both sides called significant, the company withdrew its proposal to replace an existing adjustable pension plan with an enhanced pension plan.
The Times instead offered to let the union choose between the two. The company also agreed to expand benefits for fertility treatments.
Levy said the company has also offered to raise wages by 5.5 percent after contract ratification, followed by 3 percent increases in 2023 and 2024. That would be an increase from annual increases of 2.2 percent in the expired contract.
Stacy Cowley, a financial reporter and union representative, said the union is seeking 10 percent pay increases if ratified, which she says would make up for the pay increases not received in the past two years.
She also said the union wants the contract to allow employees to work remotely part of the time, if their role allows it, but the company wants the right to recall employees back to the office full-time.
Cowley said the Times has required its staff to be in the office three days a week, but many show up less often during an informal protest.