New York Times refusal to bargain pushes workers to walkout
The New York Times has, according to its workers, been dragging its feet on negotiations for two years, after demanding cuts in pensions and changes is working conditions. The union is urging that readers join in by boycotting the paper, online and in print, tomorrow, Dec. 8. | AP

NEW YORK —Management’s refusal to bargain in good faith for almost two years over decent raises and its demand to cut or kill pensions is pushing the 1,036 newsroom and related workers at The New York Times into a reluctant one-day walkout tomorrow, on Dec. 8.

And they asked Times subscribers, supporters, readers, and union members to back them by not reading the paper, either in print or online, “or using its other products” on that day. “All would not exist without our labor,” say the workers, represented by the News Guild of New York.

The workers also want those groups to send or e-mail protests to the paper’s publisher A.G. Sulzberger—the latest scion of the family that has owned the Times since 1896—and CEO Meredith Kopit Levien.

The workers have been trying to win a new contract for more than two years. The last contract expired in March 2021, but the workers are toiling under its terms.

The theme of the forced strike, and the letters, is to tell Times bosses to give workers the raises they deserve. But bosses’ proposals for other cuts, notably in the paper’s pension plan, are on the table, too.

The Guild presented its own counter-proposals in June, featuring a salary floor of $65,000 annually, and hasn’t heard a word of reply. It points out that total spending to reach that floor would be less than the 2020-21 increase in Levien’s annual compensation alone.

“We are the people who deliver groundbreaking journalism and keep the newsroom running every day,” the News Guild said.

Management hasn’t budged from its offer of 2.75% yearly raises, far below the rate of inflation, the Guild says. By contrast, in the last Times fiscal year for which records are available, 2020-21, the top three executives got raises averaging 32.3%.

Workers ready to negotiate

“In our letter to management last week, we made clear that we were ready to enter marathon negotiating sessions immediately, even into the evening and over this past weekend. Management did not take us up on the offer. Our offer stands,” the Guild tweeted on Dec. 5.

“We’re looking for wages that keep up with inflation and the preservation of our health care and pension benefits. This isn’t rocket science,” sports reporter Ken Belson told the Guild.

While refusing to budge on pay, the Times also authorized spending $150 million on stock buybacks, the union notes. That’s more than the entire cost of the Guild’s contract proposals over the life of the proposed pact.

The Times also wants “to kill worker pension plans and to cut the company’s total funding for employee retirement benefits,” the Guild reported. And it wants twice-a-year, not yearly “performance evaluations.” The evaluations are “thoroughly criticized by members for containing racial and ethnic disparities in analysis of evaluation data released by the Times Guild this August.”

“Our pension is important to so many people of all ages. I cannot believe the company would propose cutting it and say it’s for our own good. We’re smarter than that,” said senior staff editor Andrea Zagata.

A few months ago, Times bosses unilaterally tried to mandate all the workers return to working from the headquarters in Manhattan full-time five days a week, despite the continuing coronavirus plague and current city restrictions on large gatherings in confined spaces—such as the Times newsroom.

The Guild responded that as a health and safety issue, the return to work is, under federal law, a mandatory subject for bargaining. The Times imposed its demand anyway.

“Times Guild members have been diligently working every day, through a global pandemic and record inflation, while not receiving raises since 2020,” said Bill Baker, a telecommunications coordinator and the Times unit chair within the New York News Guild.

“We have been bargaining in good faith for 20 months while management’s goal has been to slow-walk us to an inferior contract. This has to stop now. It’s time for the company to get serious about making a fair deal.”

Added News Guild of New York President Susan DeCarava: “Now it’s time for management to demonstrate, in good faith at the bargaining table, that they also understand our value. I hope Times management takes this opportunity to address our demands for livable wages, strong retirement benefits, and a workplace that corrects discriminatory practices, with a contract our members will approve.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.