The NY Times is preparing for a union walkout tomorrow

AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File

Tomorrow, more than 1,100 members of the NY Times newsroom are holding a one day strike as a way to protest their lack of a current contract.

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…

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.


Earlier today the union said on Twitter that despite last minute negotiations, they were still unhappy with what was being offered.

As for management, they’ve been preparing for the walkout:

Since Friday, there have been a series of meetings to prepare for the work stoppage, according to a Times editor. Some managers are looking into how to pull more stories off the wires to fill gaps in the report and asking people individually whether they plan to work on Thursday, according to two Times reporters. Various staffers have been asked to file stories early, or do advance work like they would for a holiday schedule, said Zagata. Guild members got an email Tuesday morning from Jacqueline Welch, the paper’s chief human resources officer, “to remind you of how company policies apply while you are exercising your right,” according to internal messages reviewed by Vanity Fair. “If you are on strike on Thursday, you will not be paid for that day. This is standard practice,” Welch wrote. (Management is billing the action as a strike; the Guild is calling it a walkout, because it’s for a defined time frame.)


Meanwhile, the union is hoping that readers will “not engage” with the paper tomorrow if the the walkout/strike happens.

I guess that means people who don’t support the strike should spend a lot of time on the Times website and click on every story if possible. Someone suggested another alternative, cancel your subscription. Nikole Hannah Jones pointed out that wouldn’t be helpful in the long run.

My own guess is that the world will be fine without the NY Times for 24 hours. I know these people have a really high opinion of themselves but seriously, the rest of us will manage. Over at Politico, Jack Shafer writes that the walkout is proof that union power isn’t what it once was.

As recently as the 1960s, newspaper unions were powerful enough to drive newspapers under with prolonged strikes, as happened in New York City in 1963 when four of the city’s seven dailies folded after a 114-day strike. But the technological and economic conditions that allowed newspaper unions to accrue such influence have been swept out with history’s tide, rendering them more of a nuisance than a genuine threat to publishers.

The unions understand this, which is why the 1,450 NewsGuild members who work at the New York Times have chosen to stage a symbolic one-day walkout on Thursday to protest the newspaper’s resistance to their contract demands rather than a full-fledged strike, at least for now…

Loyal Times readers would, of course, riot if editors filled the struck-paper with management-written copy and stuff ripped from the wire. Just imagine a day without a Maggie Haberman scoop! No more Dwight Garner book reviews! No Science Times or book review! Potentially no Wordle?! The mind quivers.

But how sustained would the fury be? Even the most ardent New York Times reader will admit that newspapers are fungible. Denied access to a staff-written New York Times, even the most Times-centric reader could survive a Times strike by turning to the web for timely news, an alternative that didn’t exist in 1963. A daily compilation of articles from the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, Time, the Atlantic, the New Yorker and POLITICO would easily do the trick.


The internet has changed things. It means readers in New York and elsewhere have a lot of other options that they didn’t have in the past. Of course some die hards would stick with the Times no matter what but I suspect a lot of people would just move on if the strike lasted more than a week or so.

In any case, if the unionists get their way, the monthly subscription prices will be going up to cover whatever new salary demands the staffers are making. There’s no upside to this for readers.

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