The Los Angeles Times Guild, the union representing LA Times’ reporters, has sent a scathing open letter to the newspaper’s management over its plans to lay off dozens of editorial staff without advance notice.
“The company has blindsided us with proposed layoffs — which we will begin bargaining over today — and [executive editor] Kevin Merida and newsroom leadership initially only planned to speak with us on Monday, five long days after announcing their intention to upend many of our lives. This is deeply insulting,” the letter reads.
According to the LA Times report, 74 members of the editorial staff, including 57 unionized staffers, will be laid off, representing 13% of the editorial team. While reporter layoffs are said to be avoided, the cuts will be among news and copy editors as well as support staff such as photographers and audio editors.
“We have made the difficult decision to undergo a reorganization and eliminate certain positions within the company. The hardest decisions to make are those that impact our employees, and we are not taking this action lightly,” a spokesperson for the Times said in a statement.
In its letter, the LAT Guild pointed out that it would have been willing to discuss ways to avert the layoffs if they had been brought up during its ongoing negotiations with management for a new contract, which have been happening since this past September. The guild pointed to a “work-sharing plan” that it proposed during the pandemic in 2020 that it says saved 84 staffers from being laid off.
“Instead, the company surprised us with this proposed layoff. We deserve better. The livelihoods of dozens of our colleagues are now on the line. Nothing could be more important for our day-to-day well-being and our professional futures at The Times,” the letter reads. “Your handling of this proposed layoff sends a clear message to the newsroom: You don’t care about the contract, and you don’t care about us.”
The guild also criticized Merida and the paper’s top management for leaving contract negotiations to its lawyers, demanding that at least one senior member of the LA Times management be present at future bargaining sessions.
“Our contract expired more than six months ago. No journalist would ever treat a deadline in such a cavalier manner. Now, you have proposed a reduction in staff with no warning or discussion. It’s difficult to imagine an issue more urgent. We expect to see meaningful movement, and soon. We are tired of waiting,” the letter reads.
When current LA Times owner Patrick Soon-Shiong bought the newspaper in 2018, the Times quickly added over 150 new editorial staffers and reported a turnaround in revenue until early 2020. But the pandemic has led to a significant downturn in advertising and subscriptions across the media landscape.
The Times is now the latest major media publication to announce layoffs, joining the likes of Washington Post, CNN and Vox Media. BuzzFeed also announced in April that it was shuttering its BuzzFeed News division and is currently fighting to remain listed on NASDAQ.