December 7, 2023

Hundreds of unionized Washington Post employees staged a 24-hour strike Thursday, marking the first work stoppage at the company in nearly 50 years.

More than 750 editorial and commercial employees have pledged to walk out, union leaders said ahead of the strike. Some journalists are also withholding their bylines for stories published Thursday. Workers say the Post has bargained in bad faith during contract negotiations, which have stretched for 18 months, and pushed a buyout plan that is not truly voluntary.

“We deserve a contract with good pay that keeps up with inflation and is competitive with other workplaces. We deserve a contract that has job security protections and that respects seniority and the value of the employees who have given multiple decades of their lives to this company,” Washington Post Guild chief steward and science reporter Sarah Kaplan said at a press conference Tuesday. “… Most of all, we just deserve to be dealt with fairly by our employer.”

Major points of contention during bargaining have been wages, mental health benefits and remote work policies. The guild, for example, has proposed 4% raises for the three-year life of the contract, while the company has countered with a 2.25% raise for the first year and 2% raises for the second and third years.

The union has four unfair labor practice charges open against the company, alleging the Post has violated federal labor law. The company has denied bargaining in bad faith.

A Post spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that the company respects union-covered members’ right to strike: “We will make sure our readers and customers are as unaffected as possible. The Post’s goal remains the same as it has from the start of our negotiations: to reach an agreement with the Guild that meets the needs of our employees and the needs of our business.”

The strike comes as the Post faces a $100 million loss for the year and turnover in top leadership. In an effort to avoid layoffs, the Post offered voluntary buyouts in October, but last week, interim CEO Patty Stonesifer told staff in an email that the company was short of its goal of 240 buyouts. If not enough people accept buyouts by mid-December, the Post will implement layoffs, Stonesifer wrote.

Stonesifer’s email angered staff and drove dozens of people to sign up to pay union dues and pledge to walk out, guild co-chair for news Katie Mettler said. Prior to the email, the union was more than 100 people short of the 700 pledges threshold it wanted to reach before announcing a strike. The last time the guild saw such a large wave of sign-ups was last year when former publisher Fred Ryan walked out of a company town hall after announcing layoff plans, Mettler said.

Union leaders have said that the buyout scheme is not truly voluntary and could be more generous. In some cases, the Post is offering up to two years’ salary, but the guild says that money is being paid as a deposit in a retirement account.

The company has set different caps on the amount of buyouts it will accept for each team, union leaders said Tuesday, and some employees worry that they will be laid off if they do not accept a buyout.

The Post previously held a round of layoffs in January when it cut 20 people and 30 open positions. As part of the cuts, the company eliminated its video game and esports section, as well as a news and feature section aimed at kids.

Prior to this year, the company had largely avoided mass layoffs under billionaire Jeff Bezos’ ownership. However, the paper has struggled to increase subscriptions since the 2020 election, The New York Times reported. Nevertheless, the Post continued to expand, and in her email announcing the buyouts, Stonesifer admitted that the company had been “overly optimistic” in its revenue projections, the Post reported.

Next month, former Dow Jones CEO and Wall Street Journal publisher William Lewis will take over as the Post’s new publisher and CEO. He will replace Ryan, who stepped down in August after nine years.

Ahead of the strike, union leaders said that several teams at the paper — including metro, design, investigations, health and social media — had 100% of their members pledge to participate. They are also urging people not to give interviews with the Post or click on its links for the duration of the strike.

The Post has said it plans to produce a news report Thursday and Friday, but at least one section head has expressed worry about filling out the paper, Washingtonian reported.

“We have nothing in the cupboard. And it’s kinda like Thanksgiving week in that people are walking out on Thursday, making the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday reports, umm…difficult,” the editor wrote in an email Monday obtained by the Washingtonian. “If there is a sentencing, a bill introduction, an appointment — anything that even whiffs of news – do it. I’m serious. We need to hoard.”

The walkout is the first work stoppage at the Post since 1975, when printing press workers struck for 20 weeks. After a 20-year lull, media unions have increasingly used work stoppages in labor disputes. The Thursday walkout is the 34th work stoppage by the NewsGuild, president Jon Schleuss told members in an email Thursday.

Post union leaders said Tuesday that they did not have plans for an open-ended strike but that they would continue to pressure the company to “meaningfully bargain” with them.

“We will extend another invitation to the company to come back to the table, to sit down with us and meaningfully bargain over the terms of our contract to get to a fair deal,” said guild organizer and housing reporter Marissa Lang. “If they refuse, if they continue to engage in some of the behavior we’ve seen, I think that we are prepared to continue to pressure them to meaningfully engage, follow the law and stop committing these (unfair labor practice) violations.”

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Angela Fu is a reporter for Poynter. She can be reached at or on Twitter @angelanfu.
Angela Fu

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