Village Voice Staff Stages Lunchtime Protest Over Bad Pay, Dwindling Benefits and ‘Sh-t’ Coffee

Village Voice Staff Stages Lunchtime Protest Over Bad Pay, Dwindling Benefits and 'Sh-t' Coffee

Twitter

To avoid a potential strike, staffers and management are hoping to come to terms on a new contract by midnight Monday

Village Voice's employees staged a lunchtime walkout Monday in protest of a sub par offer from management over contract negotiations.

However, management and staffers are hopeful to come to terms on a new agreement as the deadline for negotiations expires at midnight Monday. Staffers released a statement Monday expressing their extreme displeasure with the companies’ low pay, sub-par working conditions, and as they put it — “shit coffee.”

Though the alternative weekly's staff wasn't technically on strike, since they protested on the mean streets of Manhattan during their lunch breaks, they are hoping a high profile event will help send a serious message to management as the contract deadline looms.

“It's something we cannot accept,” said Eden Schulz, Secretary-Treasurer at the UAW Local 2110, a union that has represented the Village Voice staff for decades. “It would be a pay cut of 6-20 percent.”

Also read: Village Voice Lays Off Michael Musto, Michael Feingold in Restructuring

According to Schulz, management's newly proposed contract would require staffers to pay $700 each month out-of-pocket for the same health care coverage they're already enjoying at no additional cost to the employees. Likewise, she says staff has shrunk, payroll has shrunk, and the average salary for the Village Voice's employees is only around $45,000 year.

Also read: Village Voice Names Scott Foundas Chief Film Writer

It's unclear whether or not the lunchtime walkout will have any effect on management, but if a mutually agreeable contract isn't settled by Monday night's deadline, Schulz indicated Voice employees might be forced to “escalate actions,” which could include a strike.

Though there's turbulence behind the scenes, the Village Voice's website isn't reflecting it. At time of this Wrap publishing, highlights include a concert review round-up and a listicle called “The 100 Faces of New York,” but no mention of the lunchtime walkout.

Also read: Village Voice Taps Tom Finkel for Editor

Village Voice's editor-in-chief Tom Finkel, who was just installed last year, declined to comment when reached by TheWrap.

Voice Media Group, parent company to the Village Voice and other popular weeklies like the Miami New-Times and L.A. Weekly, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.

Here's the Village Voice staffers’ full list of demands:

Our demands this time around are very, very simple: better pay, better working conditions, particularly for our overburdened sales staff, and to keep our healthcare coverage. 

We also want better coffee. Our coffee is shit.

Management has countered with a proposal that, among many other things, would:

  • Raise our already low salaries by only $10/week
  • Raise our healthcare costs by at least $200 a month. Employees with children could see increases of much, much more.
  • Cut family leave time in half.
  • Make it easier to fire employees without putting them on probation first.
  • Slash severance payments in half for the Voice's most senior employees.

Management is also trying to gut several health and safety provisions from our contract, calling them “obsolete.” And they want to eliminate the small supplemental payment for the position of Affirmative Action & Diversity Coordinator, the staff member tasked with making sure that we're a diverse and inclusive workplace. Instead, they would generously allow that person to do the work for free. (At first, they tried to scrap the position altogether, but have grudgingly conceded that perhaps that one isn't quite “obsolete” just yet.)