Reporters won’t write stories or interview sources. Photojournalists will stay home. And if a spate of unsavory language breaks out in the online comments thread posted below a New York Times story, there might not be anyone on hand to delete it.
New York Times employees strike for 24 hours in labor dispute
Members of the News Guild — the union that covers about 1,400 Times workers, including non-newsroom departments such as advertising and security — have said the walkout is the culmination of months of frustration over contract negotiations that have weighed down on issues including compensation. The previous employee contract expired in March 2021. In a letter to members this week, union organizers wrote that “we cannot get to a deal until the company makes wage and benefit proposals that truly share the company’s gains with its employees.” They accused the company Wednesday evening of failing to “bargain in good faith.”
Meredith Kopit Levien, the chief executive of the Times, called the walkout plans “disappointing” and a “drastic action.” In a note to employees Wednesday night, she said the company has shown a “clear commitment” to negotiating a contract “that provides Times journalists with substantial pay increases, market-leading benefits and flexible working conditions.”
Although Levien pledged that the Times would keep producing news through Thursday, some of the paper’s best-known journalists have said they will join the walkout, an action that will also mean sacrificing a day of pay. Staffers are also urging readers to express solidarity with their cause by boycotting Times products for the day — including the addictive Wordle game.
It is the first major walkout at the Times since 1981 — a work stoppage that lasted for just 6½ hours. In 2017, Times staffers staged a brief lunchtime walkout to protest staff cuts and other changes to copy-editing operations.
The dispute comes as several media companies are laying off employees, citing a challenging economic environment. The Times, though, is widely considered one of the industry’s rare success stories. Executives said in their latest earnings call that they had grown the newsroom and projected a total adjusted operating profit of between $320 million and $330 million by the end of the year.
Some staffers argue that they should share more of the fruits of this recent success, after enduring stagnant wages and belt-tightening during leaner times for the company.
“That’s where it feels more than just a matter of disagreement on numbers, but really a slap in the face,” said film critic A.O. Scott. “We have devoted so much of our time, energy, work and love to this paper, which seems unwilling to recognize or to reward that contribution.”
In negotiations earlier this week, the guild sought average pay raises of 5.5 percent in both 2023 and 2024, while the company countered with two years of 3 percent increases. The two sides also disagree on minimum salaries and how much to pay in retroactive bonuses that would cover the period since the old contract expired.
“The Times is in good financial shape now,” said investigative reporter Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, “and we think that our work should be valued more highly than what they’re currently offering.”
Levien, in her note to staff, argued that management’s “great care” in restoring the Times to economic health enabled the newsroom’s recent growth and that the company already offers “best in class pay and benefits.”
Other staffers have expressed concern that some colleagues are earning salaries that have not kept up with the cost of living in one of the nation’s most expensive cities — some taking second jobs to make ends meet — and that all have been hurt by wages that haven’t kept up with inflation.
The two sides also haven’t agreed on issues concerning the performance-review system for employees and remote-work policies.
Times employees said they rescheduled interviews and delayed work on major projects in advance of the walkout.
“It’s painful,” said investigative and politics correspondent Nick Confessore. “Our duty is to lean into the story and not put our proverbial typewriters down.” But he said staffers feel strongly that their actions are necessary to make sure that jobs at the Times remain financially viable options for “the young people with talent from any background.”
For the first time, contract negotiations took place over Zoom — allowing more staffers to watch the company’s lawyers respond to guild points and probably increasing the newsroom fervor for this week’s labor action.
Employees first signaled their work stoppage threat a week ago, writing in a letter to senior executives that more than 1,000 employees pledged a walkout unless they reached a contract deal by Dec. 8.
After a Tuesday session that dragged into the late evening, the two sides remained at odds on the topic of wages but started to reach agreement on some other issues — prompting deputy managing editor Clifford Levy to chide the union for threatening a work stoppage.
“This approach usually occurs when the two sides have reached an impasse,” he wrote in a note to employees, “but that has clearly not occurred.”
Talks continued Wednesday but fell apart in the early evening.
Employees plan to return to their jobs Friday. At some other companies, one-day work stoppages have been followed by longer strikes.
Jeremy Barr contributed to this report.