Hundreds of unionized New York Times journalists are considering a byline strike as contract negotiations between the Newspaper Guild of New York and the newspaper continue in mediation, according to a memo from the newspaper union obtained by TPM.
The memo — from Grant Glickson, chairman of the Times’ unit of the Newspaper Guild of New York — claimed staffers from “every department” of the paper, including “many of our best-known journalists,” have agreed to the proposed byline strike. “They have also pledged to work strictly to the terms of the contract,” Glickson added. “We don’t know yet if we will have to go down this road, but it is vital that we be prepared.”
The Times and the newspaper union entered mediation earlier this month to hammer out the contract dispute. Veteran labor arbiter Martin Scheinman, who has worked with the Times in the past, is handling the mediation, according to The Wrap. Glickson told TPM that mediation is going well so far, but there are still differences to settle. “[W]e are still miles apart on the big ticket financial items: wages, health care, pension and severance.” The talks have been ongoing for a year and a half.
In addition to considering a byline strike, there are plans to greet incoming Times CEO Mark Thompson, previously the head of the BBC, with a group photo in the lobby on Monday. “We want to welcome him — and acquaint him with the grave situation he has walked into,” Glickson wrote. “[C]ount on it being short and sweet. Well, not too sweet.”
The New York Times declined to comment on the proposed byline strike. Read the union’s full memo, first posted by Jim Romenesko:
One week into mediation, negotiators for the company continue to propose what amount to the most radical pay cuts for the New York Times staff in modern history.
We will spare no effort to make these talks succeed. But we cannot avert our eyes from the blunt truth that we are on the brink of a crisis — for The Times, for us, and for the millions of people who depend on our coverage of the world. And it is a needless, pointless, corrosive crisis.
Those of us who have dedicated so much of our selves to the Times must speak and act now. A major negotiating session is scheduled for next Sunday.
Before then, there’s much to do.
Here are two ways for you to pitch in immediately.
The company’s new CEO, Mark Thompson, is expected to begin work Monday. Let’s get together in the lobby at 3:40 for a group picture. We want to welcome him — and acquaint him with the grave situation he has walked into.
Over the last few days, hundreds of people from every department, including many of our best known journalists, have quietly signed pledges to withhold their bylines, photo credits, and producing credits. They have also pledged to work strictly to the terms of the contract. We don’t know yet if we will have to go down this road, but it is vital that we be prepared. If you haven’t had a chance to sign up yet, ask around.
Make time Monday afternoon at 3:40 to gather in the lobby. More details Monday morning, but count on it being short and sweet. Well, not too sweet.
It’s important to know that mediation has made significant progress, but on the major, show-stopping issue, we’re still stuck. After 20 months of talks, company negotiators are repeating the same broken formula. In real dollars, they’re demanding pay cuts as far as the eye can see.
It is high time for them to believe us. We will accept nothing less than fair wages and benefits.
The Mobilization Committee
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com