The New York Times is bracing for a historic mass walkout as union negotiations go down to the wire
By Oliver Darcy, CNN Business
The New York Times is preparing for more than 1,100 of its union staffers to go on strike for a full day Thursday — an act of protest that has not been staged by employees at the paper of record since the late 1970s.
The historic work stoppage is set to go in effect at midnight on December 8 and last for an entire 24 hours. Instead of filing stories, employees will be seen picketing outside The Times’ offices at 1pm, with prominent journalists such as Nikole Hannah-Jones set to speak during a solidarity rally.
Some major desks at the paper could lose a staggering 90% of their workforce during the strike, according to the NewsGuild of New York, which represents journalists and other staffers at The Times.
In effect, the public will get a glimpse of a world without much of The Times’ hard-hitting and informative journalism.
“We had hoped to reach a fair deal before our deadline, but more than 1,100 of us are ready to take a stand together, for each other and for journalists everywhere,” reporter Jenny Vrentas said in a statement Tuesday evening.
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The threatened strike comes as the gray lady and the NewsGuild remain at odds over a number of issues, particularly wages. The Times says it has offered the guild “significant increases,” but the union counters that the paper has “frequently misrepresented its own proposals.” The two parties have been bargaining since the last contract expired in March 2021. After a year-and-a-half, unionized workers have had enough and so, last Friday, the NewsGuild informed The Times about its plans to stage a walkout.
Both sides have been working to reach a deal and avert the 24-hour strike. Bargaining persisted into the evening on Tuesday, continuing beyond the planned 9am-5pm window. And it is possible an agreement will somehow be struck before the work stoppage goes into effect.
But it’s not looking great.
A spokesperson for The NYT said “no decisions have been made” about bargaining on Wednesday. But NewsGuild spokesperson Wen Zhuang said there are no more planned sessions on the schedule, which would make it far more difficult to hammer out a last-minute agreement.
“It’s very likely that the walk out will be happening,” Zhuang said.
Management at The NYT, while initially “blindsided” by the walkout threat, according to a source, has started preparing for the scenario. The NYT’s human resources chief, Jacqueline Welch, stressed to staffers Tuesday morning, in a memo that CNN obtained, that employees who participate in the work stoppage “will not be paid by the company for the duration of the strike.” Welch added that employees “cannot use vacation or personal days to account for this time” unless it was approved prior to last Friday.
And as Vanity Fair’s Charlotte Klein reported Tuesday, management is also working to find content to fill the paper during the day of work stoppage. Klein reported that managers are exploring a range of options to keep the news flowing, including pulling from wires and asking reporters to file stories early, as if they were readying for a major holiday. And much of the paper’s international staff is also not in the guild, meaning they are expected to continue their reporting.
“While we are disappointed that the NewsGuild is threatening to strike, we are prepared to ensure The Times continues to serve our readers without disruption,” a spokesperson for The NYT reiterated on Tuesday.
But, with a mostly empty newsroom, that might prove difficult.
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