Guild commits $1M for NYT contract fight

Romenesko Misc.
Newspaper Guild of New York president Bill O’Meara claims the Times contract proposals “as they stand now, would ruin the paper” and “accelerate the brain drain that has already resulted in the departure of many talented journalists for better opportunities.” THE NEXT DEMAND MEDIA?: “Management is leading us to a future where The Times will be more of a content farm than a place for great journalism,” the union boss contends. || Read the Times’ response.

New York Newspaper Guild release

Union Set to Fight Management Proposals for Draconian Cuts at The New York Times

Times labor contracts with the Newspaper Guild of New York,

representing more than 1,000 employees, expire on March 30

NEW YORK (Feb. 16, 2011) – The Newspaper Guild of New York will commit $1 million for a campaign to rally public support for journalists and other unionized staff at The New York Times, where top executives are demanding huge compensation cuts.

The Guild’s Executive Committee unanimously approved the defensive measure last night, five days after a contract proposal that severely diminishes the wages, benefits and protections of journalists and staff was presented to Guild negotiators by representatives of Times Chairman and Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and CEO Janet Robinson.

“Times management’s contract proposals, as they stand now, would ruin the paper,” said Guild President Bill O’Meara. “They undermine the spirit and unique commitment of the many people who produce The Times and they will accelerate the brain drain that has already resulted in the departure of many talented journalists for better opportunities. Management is leading us to a future where The Times will be more of a content farm than a place for great journalism.”

The Guild represents 1,016 employees who are responsible for news content, advertising, sales and other functions on The Times’ print and digital platforms. The management proposals call for draconian changes on a scale never before experienced by the Guild or its members at The Times, including:

* An effective 16 percent pay cut through a longer work week;
* A wage freeze for the length of the proposed contract;
* Undermining journalists’ professionalism by downgrading many newsroom jobs;
* Weakening retirement security by eliminating future pension accruals;
* Raising employee health care costs, while sharply cutting benefits;
* Eliminating extra pay when employees must work longer or late at night.
* Management’s demands would diminish, if not eliminate, nearly every component of employees’ pay, benefits and protections that are set out in their current contract. The two sides are scheduled to meet again at the bargaining table on Feb. 24. Contracts covering the company’s newspaper and digital employees expire on March 30.

As the recession and the upheaval of the newspaper business took their toll, Guild members supported the company by agreeing to a 5 percent pay cut for eight months during 2009, even as management was cutting hundreds of Guild-covered jobs.

“Now that we see light at the end of the tunnel, they slap us in the face with this contract proposal,” said Grant Glickson, chairperson of the Guild unit of newspaper employees. “We see the potential for a bright future for the paper and its digital operations, but the future envisioned by management doesn’t preserve The Times as the great news organization it is today.”

The motion approved last night:

The Executive Committee of the Newspaper Guild of New York calls on the Chairman and Publisher of The New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and The New York Times Chief Executive Officer, Janet Robinson, to immediately withdraw the destructive, union-busting contract proposal their representatives presented to the Guild’s bargaining committee last Thursday, February 10, 2011.

We instead call on Mr. Sulzberger and Ms. Robinson to work cooperatively with the Guild to craft a proposal that acknowledges the personal, financial and professional sacrifices we voluntarily accepted in order to help our paper endure the most volatile economic climate in newspaper history. We did this because we are passionate about journalism, we are proud of our work, and we wish for The Times to succeed.

It is our hope that Mr. Sulzberger and Ms. Robinson will work with us to seize the digital future of journalism, and we stand ready to continue to produce the print and digital content, and to sell the advertising, to make that happen.

Failing that, and as a precaution, it is moved that the Guild allocate an additional $1 million to its defense fund to mount a robust public campaign that educates New Yorkers on the ruinous effects of the Times’ proposal on its Guild-represented staff, and demonstrates how “the best journalists in the world” maintain The New York Times’ standards of excellence.

[Note: This is the guild's second version of the release, and replaces the one that was posted earlier.]

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  • Anonymous

    This is another example of why the Guild will spend-its self to death by allocating $1M on a contract in New York, when in a state like Tennessee there remains a blatant refusal to even consider any collective bargaining agreement (CBA) and its work rules, in legal proceedings, including unemployment compensation!

    Perhaps the Guild simply does not consider federal preemption a necessary component of a CBA, focusing entirely upon entitlements like an agreed upon pay scale? But no matter what the reason, it’s faulty logic for organized labor.