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Why an employee union at The New York Times is going on strike

This is the first time NYT journalists are stopping work since 1981.

Vehicles drive past the New York Times headquarters in New YorkWorkers are also urging readers to not read the NYT on Thursday and not play Wordle, which is owned by the company.(REUTERS/Lucas Jackson)

More than 1,100 employees of The New York Times will go on a one-day strike on Thursday, after their talks on a new contract with the company failed to reach a satisfactory conclusion. This is the first time NYT journalists are stopping work since 1981. The strike that year had lasted for less than a day.

The employees, affiliated with The NewsGuild of New York, will stop work from midnight US time Thursday.

“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. It’s official: @NYTimesGuild members are walking out for 24 hours on Thursday. We know what we’re worth,” the Guild tweeted.


They are also urging readers to not read the NYT that day and not play Wordle, which is owned by the company.

“We’re asking readers to not engage in any @nytimes platforms tomorrow and stand with us on the digital picket line! Read local news. Listen to public radio. Make something from a cookbook. Break your Wordle streak,” Amanda Hess, critic-at-large with The New York Times and second vice president of The NewsGuild, tweeted.

The New York Times confirmed the strike, calling the move “disappointing”. “It is disappointing that they are taking such an extreme action when we are not at an impasse,” the company said.

While employees not affiliated with the Guild will be at work, it remains to be seen how the absence of a significant number of workers, including journalists, security guards, etc., impacts operations.

“While they could have been focusing on bargaining, @nytimes is focused on preparing to minimize the impact of a walkout rather than putting in a good-faith effort to avoid one,” the Guild tweeted, adding that the company had asked its members to work extra hours before Thursday and also told them their pay for the strike hours would be cut.

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What the employees want

Employees claim the company has been dragging its feet over the demands they have put forth for their new contract, after the old one expired in March 2021. Some of the key sticking issues are wage hikes and remote-work policies.

According to an AP report, the NYT has offered to increase wages by 5.5% upon ratification of the contract, followed by 3% hikes in 2023 and 2024, which would be an increase from the 2.2% annual increases in the expired contract. The union, however, wants a 10% raise at ratification, to make up for the hikes not received over the past two years. It also wants that employees to be allowed the option of working from home sometimes if their roles allow it.

In addition, according to an NYT report, Guild members had raised the issue of biases during the performance appraisal process, saying in a report that White Guild members were given good ratings while Black and Hispanic members tended to get lower ratings.

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“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,” the NYT article says.

What the company is saying

The company has maintained that the strike decision is “disappointing” as the talks weren’t at a deadlock.

According to the NYT article, in a note to the newsroom, Joe Kahn, the executive editor of The Times, said, “Strikes typically happen when talks deadlock. That is not where we are today. While the company and the NewsGuild remain apart on a number of issues, we continue to trade proposals and make progress toward an agreement.”

Growing strikes

With the stop-work, NYT employees join other major labour unions in the US that have recently gone on strike over labour rights, such as those at Amazon, Starbucks, and Apple.

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Among the media industry, according to a Reuters report, “journalists at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, owned by Block Communications Inc, and the McClatchy-owned Fort Worth Star-Telegram are currently on open-ended strikes. On November 4, over 200 union journalists across 14 Gannett-owned news outlets – including the Desert Sun in California and New Jersey’s Asbury Park Press – participated in a one-day strike. In August, nearly 300 Thomson Reuters Corp journalists in the US, also represented by the NewsGuild of New York, staged a 24-hour strike as the union negotiates with the company for a new three-year contract.”

First published on: 08-12-2022 at 18:47 IST
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