New York Times employees went on a one-day strike Thursday as the NewsGuild demanded higher wages and salary increases, claiming that employee evaluations discriminate against minorities.
A mass rally was held directly outside the 40th Street entrance to the Times’ headquarters in midtown Manhattan. Guild members wore red in solidarity, holding signs that read “The New York Times Quit” and holding Scabby, the giant inflatable rat synonymous with union drama. After 20 months of stalemate over failed negotiations, a fiery mob of disgruntled Times employees, including Project 1619 architect Nicole Hanna-Jones and NewsGuild chief Susan DeCarava, heard directly from union leaders. had to.
“The goal is to show our company that we’re serious, that we deserve to be respected at the sales table,” Hannah-Jones said moments before addressing the crowd.
“It’s really important for me to come out and show solidarity, especially with our low-wage workers,” Hannah-Jones continued. “We haven’t seen a raise in two years, and some of our members are really struggling to make ends meet to work here and live in the city. So we want to show how serious we are about getting a fair deal.”
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Hannah-Jones, the paper’s most prominent and outspoken employee, said morale at the Gray Lady was low after 20 months of failed negotiations because ordinary staff wanted the paper to thrive but felt unappreciated.
“I think people are really disappointed,” Hannah-Jones said. “If you don’t feel that kind of desperation, you can’t take that step.”
As the rally officially began Thursday afternoon, protesters and journalists gathered around the makeshift backdrop of the NYT Guild and around a wooden podium. Photographers clambered onto the scaffolding to get better shots, and publisher AG Sulzberger recently teased a song mocking the promotional lunchbox distributed to employees. “I don’t need the jabs, I want the paycheck,” said one employee who recently claimed he was gifted a New York Times bag.
DeCarava, president of the NewsGuild of New York, said the comments by Times employees discriminated against black workers after the newspaper’s whistleblowers reviewed the results of an internal evaluation.
“It turns out that they are measured against employees of color at The New York Times. For example, a black employee at The New York Times has never received the highest grade. Nicole Hannah-Jones in our section . Tell it like it is. he’s not doing this caliber of work,” DeCarava said after the rally as chants echoed in the background.
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“We have a handful of people who do great work every day, delivering news for the Times, and don’t get recognized for it,” DeCarava said. “It’s about respect, and it’s also about compensation.”
DeCarava argued that discretionary pay increases depend on internal evaluations and therefore black employees are not getting the raises they feel they deserve.
“It’s a double whammy, right? What’s your reputation in the newsroom, how are you judged by your executives, by your editors, by your peers, and how are you compensated for that,” DeCarava said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re fighting so hard to have a compensation system that recognizes two years without pay. [increases] but this too requires much discretion on the part of the hands of an unbiased system.”
DeCarava, who is pushing for a more “regulated” system where “everyone is guaranteed a raise” every year, doesn’t feel like they’re really bargaining the paper.
Asked if he believed Times management was acting in good faith, he said: “I don’t.”
“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of support from our students, and we’re very grateful,” he said. “We want the Times to care as much about the quality of our work as they do.”
The New York Times union is calling on readers to join a “DIGITAL PICKET LINE” as it begins a strike.
Guild chapter chairman Bill Baker was “pleased” to attend the rally, but also criticized the paper’s management.
“The fact that we’re here 20 months later, I can’t say they worked in good faith,” Baker said. “We should have been done a long time ago.”
Baker said the union sided in previous negotiations because the paper was struggling at the time. But as fortunes have turned for the better and the Times has made some great acquisitions, including the recent purchase of Wordle and The Athletic, it wants to feel the love.
“We must not only be for, but for each other [past] benefits, but for what we did to build the company [what] now,” Baker said.
Times finance reporter Stacey Cowley, who sits on the guild’s trade committee, said wages adjusted for inflation and a living wage for all guild members are two of the most important issues for her group.
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Management in the New York Times complained to the press that the Guild does not want to negotiate in person because the union prefers Zoom sessions so that all members can witness bargaining attempts, but Cowley vehemently disagrees.
“We strongly believe that these negotiations will not be conducted behind closed doors,” Cowley said. “We believe all our members have the right to see their sausages being made.”
Cowley said further talks are not scheduled until Tuesday, but he is open to speaking at any time.
“We will continue to do everything we can to reach an agreement. If the Times continues to walk away from completely unacceptable offers, I think you saw the strength of our collective will today,” Cowley said.
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At least 1,100 workers have signed a 24-hour strike pledge.
Times journalists went on strike for less than a day in 1981. The 1978 strike was the most significant, lasting 88 days and halting publication of the paper. More recently, in 2018, a short walkout was held to protest the removal of the photocopier.
Joe Kahn, executive editor of The Times, said he was disappointed by the resignations and rejected the idea that talks between the NewsGuild and management had reached an impasse.
“While the company and NewsGuild differ on a number of issues, we will continue to exchange proposals and reach an agreement,” he said.
The New York Times did not immediately respond to a number of questions, including whether management was negotiating in good faith or whether the employee review process discriminated against certain groups.