NY Times Union Members Ratify Contract (Updated)

The New York Times' new contract with its union preserves pension plans and increases compensation

Following months of heated negotiations, members of the guild that represents the New York Times' employees voted to ratify a new contract that preserves pension plans and increases pay, the union said Tuesday night.

At the newspaper's various bureaus, the union workers — who range from reporters to editors to janitors — voted overwhelmingly to approve the contract.

Three years after the negotiations began, both sides hit a stalemate in recent months, prompting them to agree to mediation.

"The vote followed a vigorous internal debate over top management's willingness to lavishly reward itself and its former CEO while refusing to come across with higher pay increases for the staff that actually produces the newspaper and website," the Newspaper Guild of New York said in a statement.

The final contract deeply divided the staff, according to emails first obtained by industry blogger Jim Romenesko.

"I’m willing to listen," wrote Metro reporter Peter Applebome, "but unless I’m convinced a 'no' vote would be more than a brave but likely fruitless and damaging statement of principle, I’m inclined to vote yes."

Weighing in on his Blackberry from a desert in Chad, East Africa Bureau Chief Jeffrey Gettleman reminded his colleagues of the brutal sacrifices made by foreign correspondents — with Anthony Shadid's death in Syria fresh on his mind — and urged them to vote "no."

"Enough is enough. We all make HUGE sacrifices for this company. If there is enough cash in the system for Janet to walk away with millions, there is enough to pay us fairly," he said, referring to ex-CEO Janet Robinson's reported $15 million severance package. "By voting no, we send that message loud and clear."

Last month, droves of Times employees walked out and marched around the paper's Midtown Manhattan headquarters in protest of the stalled negotiations. Union staffers also packed the lobby of the building when newly minted CEO Mark Thompson arrived to tour the building, holding signings with their mantra, "Save Our Times."

“The level of engagement and activism among members at The Times has been greater than anything I’ve seen in my 24 years at the Guild,” Bill O’Meara, the guild's president, said a statement. “Without it, we would never have been able to accomplish what we did.”

Echoing earlier statements when the negotiations were ongoing, a Times spokeswoman told TheWrap the company was happy to have the conflict behind it.

"We're pleased that we have a ratified contract, and we're looking forward to moving ahead together," Eileen Murphy, the Times' vice president of corporate communications, said.

Updated at 4:55 p.m. ET with a statement from the Times Company.