New York Times journalists stage historic strike as labor tensions mount
New York, New York - Taking a defiant stand, hundreds of New York Times journalists refused to work Thursday in the largest journalist-led labor action at the US' leading newspaper in more than 40 years.
The New York Times Guild's 24-hour strike highlighted the mounting frustration of writers, editors, online producers, security guards, and other staffers over the slow pace of negotiations for a new contract. The last newsroom contract expired in March 2021, and guild leaders this week said "the company’s failure to bargain in good faith" prompted their walkout.
"We are deeply committed to the success of the paper. ... (But) today, for the first time in decades, we’re fulfilling that mission in a different way," The Times Guild and its local, NewsGuild of New York, said in a letter to readers.
The Times’ management, however, disputed slow-walking a deal to cover 1,450 newsroom guild members.
"It’s disappointing that they’re taking such drastic action, given the clear commitment we’ve shown to negotiate our way to a contract that provides Times journalists with substantial pay increases, market-leading benefits, and flexible working conditions," New York Times Co. Chief Executive Meredith Kopit Levien wrote in a Wednesday night message to the staff.
Executive Editor Joseph Kahn, in a separate email to the newsroom, wrote: "Strikes typically happen when talks deadlock. That is not where we are today."
New York Times journalists demand better wages and working conditions
Negotiations have been ongoing for 20 months. New York Times’ journalists have demanded a 10% pay bump at contract ratification (to compensate workers who went two years without a raise) and 5.5% increases in 2023 and 2024. They’ve asked for a minimum annual salary of $65,000, citing the high cost of living in New York.
Talks have also touched on retirement and other benefits, as well as a proposal to phase out the company’s pension plan. Some journalists also want to continue to work from home as they have throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
Tensions at the New York Times echo clashes nationwide.
Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh are in the seventh week of a strike against the Post-Gazette. The group went on strike in early October after rejecting a new employee health insurance plan imposed by management. Journalists with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in Texas, part of a chain owned by hedge fund Chatham Asset Management, went on strike last month.
The Times’ union announced its intent to strike a week ago, giving managers time to stockpile stories and adjust production schedules. Press workers continued on the job, which enabled print editions to be delivered without interruption.
"We will produce a robust report on Thursday," Kahn said in an email to staff. "But it will be harder than usual."
Not all Times’ journalists participated in the walkout. The newsroom boasts more than 1,800 workers, and more than 1,100 signed walk-out pledges. International reporters largely are not covered by the contract.
Cover photo: REUTERS