Not all news is fit for print: The New York Times bid to avoid a last-ditch strike

Unionized journalists at the New York Times are entering critical talks with management on Tuesday to determine whether more than 1,000 NewsGuild members will withdraw their threat to stage a one-day walkout on Thursday.

The two sides are squabbling over wages, health care and pension plans as they head into a trading session scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“We will stop work for 24 hours unless we can reach a full and fair contract agreement by Thursday, December 8,” said Bill Baker, head of the NYT NewsGuild. On Friday, AG Sulzberger, a member of the family that runs Gray Lady, and Meredith Kopit Levien, president and CEO, were sent.

The memorandum was signed by about 1100 trade union members, including journalists, photographers and some businessmen.

However, hopes that a deal will be struck by Thursday appear to be fading – leading to the possibility of the first major layoff at the Times since 1978.

The company has offered to give union members an additional $32,103 in compensation, on top of $120,000 a year.
NurPhoto via Getty Images

“Baker first sent the memo Friday morning, and the hope is that management will get back to him right away and begin round-the-clock negotiations over the weekend.” But it didn’t happen,” said a source close to the union.

According to a Nov. 10 memo sent by Times associate managing editor Cliff Levy to all Guild employees, the company has offered union members who earn $120,000 a year an additional $32,103 in compensation over the next two and a half years.

The union argued on Friday that the pay rise proposals would increase wages by an average of 2.75% a year – well below the cost of inflation.

New York Times Publisher AG Sulzberger
Publisher AG Sulzberger, scion of the family that runs Gray Lady.
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On Monday, the Times said its offer would be an 11% increase, including a 5% rollback after ratification and a 3% wage increase in each of 2023 and 2024.

“While we are disappointed that the NewsGuild is threatening to strike, we are committed to ensuring that the Times continues to provide uninterrupted service to our readers,” a Times spokesperson told The Post. “We are committed to working with the NYT NewsGuild to achieve an agreement we can all be proud of. Our current offer offers a significant pay rise.”

The union also accused The Times of trying to drive up health care costs and end a pension plan that pays employees a lifetime pension — replacing it with a 401(k) plan that stops being funded by an employer once a person retires. .

“We are looking to maintain our inflation-adjusted wages, health care and pension benefits,” NYT sports reporter Ken Belson was quoted as saying in a NewsGuild statement.

The Times offered this branded lunch box to employees returning to work for three days after Labor Day.
The Times offered this branded lunch box to employees returning to work for three days after Labor Day.

The union also claimed that the Times’ $150 million stock buyback in February far exceeded the cost of wage and benefit increases over the course of the new multi-year contract. He also pointed to the very generous bonuses given to executives. The top three saw a 32.3 percent increase in compensation last year, according to the union.

“We’ve been bargaining in good faith for 20 months, while management’s goal was to slow us down to a bad deal,” said Baker, who is also the Times’ communications coordinator. “This has to stop now. It’s time to get serious about giving the company a fair deal.”

The strike could shut down publication at other newspapers, including the NY Post, Newsday and regional editions of the Wall Street Journal and USA Today, if the Times unions decide to honor the NewsGuild’s one-day walkout as those newspapers outsource their staffing. Printing to the Times’s College Point printing plant.

After a meeting between the Guild and management on Wednesday, John Heffernan, president of the Union Printing Trades Council, which includes the press union and drivers, electricians and other trades, is scheduled to meet on Wednesday.

“We’ll support them and see how we can support them,” Heffernan told The Post. “I’ll know more on Wednesday.”

Despite the increasingly tense negotiations, some insiders doubt that enough workers will choose to go on a full strike. The union did not plan to vote to authorize a strike from the membership, a major step in the escalating labor struggle.

“The New York Times is like a religion or a cult,” said one source close to the petition. “There is a lot of whining, but I don’t know that the majority of members are ready to go on a full strike.”

There have been disruptions at the Times. There have been brief lunchtime protests by the union over a pay dispute in 2011 and plans to beat copy editors in 2017.

Times buildings during the 1978 strike.
Times buildings during the 1978 strike.
Getty Images

These protests stopped work for several hours, but the one-day “strike” will be the first major work stoppage at Gray Lady since the 88-day strike that began on August 10, 1978.

At the time, the Daily News and The Post were also on strike because they belonged to the same union. The Post resumed publication about 50 days after the strike, with its parent News Corp. negotiating a new contract with its press union. But the News and Times did not call off the strike until November 5.

During the 1978 strike, some leading journalists banded together and produced a 24-page parody newspaper called Not The New York Times, edited by National Lampoon editor Tony Hendra and Paris Review founder George Plimpton – with contributions up to Carl Bernstein with. To Jerzy Kosinski, as well as to many off-duty Times reporters.

The 1963 strike resulted in The New York Review of Books, which began as a strike publication and has been published ever since, to replace the book reviews lost.


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