Reporters and editors at The New York Times began a one-day strike on Thursday, saying talks between their union and the company have been dragging on and making limited progress.
The Times’ contract with the New York Times Association expires in March 2021, and there have been about 40 negotiations since then. Negotiators have failed to reach an agreement on wages, health and retirement benefits, and other issues.
More than 1,100 employees signed a 24-hour strike pledge. The union negotiating the contract is part of New York’s NewsGuild, which represents about 1,450 employees in the company’s newsroom, advertising and other areas. More than 1,800 people work in The Times’ newsroom.
In a statement Wednesday night, the union accused The Times of haggling.
“Their wage proposals continue to fall short of economic conditions that lag well behind U.S. inflation and average wage growth rates,” the union said in announcing the strike.
In a note to the newsroom, Times executive editor Joe Kahn said he was disappointed by the union’s decision.
“Strikes usually happen when negotiations are deadlocked. That’s not where we are today,” Mr. Kahn said. “While the company and NewsGuild remain at odds on many issues, we continue to exchange proposals and make progress towards an agreement.”
Compensation remains the most contentious aspect of the negotiations. The Times is offering union members a 5.5 per cent pay rise after contract approval, 3 per cent pay increases in 2023 and 2024 and a 4 per cent retroactive bonus to make up for no pay rises when contracts expire. The union is proposing a 10 per cent pay rise upon approval, 5.5 per cent pay increases in 2023 and 2024, and a retroactive bonus of 8.5 per cent.
Other issues discussed during the talks included return-to-work policies and the company’s employee performance rating system. In a study released in August, the union said the system was discriminatory.
“White union members were more likely to receive the highest ratings,” the study said, “while black and Hispanic members were more likely to receive the lowest two ratings.”
After the union released the report, a group of senior executives at The Times looked at ways to improve the ratings process. In October, editor-in-chief Marc Lacey announced plans to update it.
“Our ultimate goal is to have a simpler system that everyone can apply fairly and consistently, with a greater focus on thoughtful feedback than ratings,” Mr. Lacey wrote.
During the strike, non-union newsroom employees will be primarily responsible for producing news stories.
“We will be releasing a strong report on Thursday,” Mr. Kahn wrote in an email to the newsroom. “But it’s going to be harder than usual.”
Faced with a slowing advertising business and an uncertain economic outlook, some media outlets have cut jobs in recent weeks, including CNN, BuzzFeed and the Gannett newspaper chain. In talks with The Times, union negotiators argued that reporters and editors were battling inflation as companies generated healthy operating profits.
Investing in news coverage has led to well-paid, stable jobs for many journalists, The New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien wrote in a company-wide email. . Profits have not caught up to where they were decades ago, she said.
“These investments have been made possible because we as a company have worked very carefully over the last decade to restore economic growth in a radically transformed industry,” she said. Levien said. “We do this by making sustainable financial decisions that are sustainable not only now, but for years to come.”
Times reporters rarely go on strike. They did so for less than a day in 1981 and staged a brief strike in 2017 to protest the removal of the copy desks. No industrial action has stopped The New York Times from publishing since journalists and others went on strike in 1978, which lasted 88 days.
The union plans to hold a demonstration Thursday afternoon outside New York Times headquarters.