Members of the New York Times Guild called to improve the future of journalism Thursday as 1,100 guild members picketed outside of the publication’s Manhattan headquarters to kick off a 24-hour-long strike.
“One of the beautiful parts of our union is that we are standing up for both workers and for journalism, for the future of our industry,” reporter Jenny Vrentas said while addressing the crowd in a live stream posted by the Guild. “Our pride in our work is a big reason that we are standing here today. We and journalists everywhere know that we do our best work when we are valued and we are treated equitably. And for those fighting similar fights in newsrooms across the country across the world, we see you and we’re doing this for you too.”
The strike, which began at midnight ET on Thursday morning, was announced last week to take place if the Times did not agree to a fair contract by Thursday, marking the first major work stoppage involving New York Times employees since the 1970s — though staffers staged a lunchtime walkout in 2017 in response to possible layoffs.
“When I started at the New York Times less than a year ago, I did not think I would be standing on a picket line today,” Vrentas continued. “But I also didn’t think the company would refuse to agree to a $65,000 salary floor, which is necessary to ensure our workers don’t have to … work a second job to be part of the New York Times. That is essential to having an equitable newsroom.”
Compensation remains a crucial part of the guild’s negotiations, as the union proposed a 10% raise after the contract is ratified, 5.5% raises in 2023 and 2024, and an 8.5% retroactive bonus. Instead, the publications offered union members a 5.5% raise upon ratification, 3% raises in 2023 and 2024, and a 4% retroactive bonus to compensate for a lack of raises since the contract expired.
According to CNN, the Guild has requested for negotiations to take place “publicly,” meaning “as many as 200 union members watching as ‘observers’” on a Zoom call alongside “eight or so people from management [and] as many as 18 people on the bargaining committee.”
“I’m not angry. I’m just deeply disappointed by our company negotiation team,” correspondent Nikole Hannah-Jones said. “But I’ve been equally awestruck and inspired by the tireless efforts of our bargaining committee … all of my fellow guild members, and all of you who are here today who have been working away big and small, to fight for a better workplace for everyone for all of our colleagues.”
For Hannah-Jones, who came from a long line of union members and activists, and other staffers, the pay equity would enable employees from any background to work at the Times.
“I know what it’s like to work at a newspaper and not make enough to pay your bills,” Hannah-Jones continued. “I worked two jobs until I was 30 years old, I reported at my local newspaper and then I had to sell mattresses on nights and weekends just to make ends meet. I love my job. And we shouldn’t have to struggle financially to work at a place like the New York Times, no matter what position we hold.”
Ahead of the strike, the Guild asked readers to “not engage in any New York Times platforms tomorrow,” including Wordle.
While articles published Thursday have raised questions on whether their author is part of the strike, the Guild clarified that “if you see someone’s name on a story on Thursday or Friday, it does not necessarily mean they crossed the picket line to write it.” “Newspapers often have reporters write portions of stories ahead of time when possible,” the Guild tweeted.