Staffers at the New York Times are openly discussing the possibility of a work stoppage as talks with management have reportedly hit an impasse over the union’s demands for a salary hike.

The guild representing journalists at the newspaper also wants management to commit to an 8% annual salary increase year-over-year for a period of four years.

But management has countered with a significantly smaller hike — a 4% increase for the first year followed by a 2% boost for the following two years, according to Insider.

Management has also offered an additional 1% merit-based pay hikes.

The labor strife is exacerbating tensions between rank-and-file Times staffers and management, who have been at loggerheads over the newspaper’s return-to-office demands.

The Post reported earlier this month that more than 1,300 newsroom staffers signed a pledge vowing to defy management’s edict to return to their Midtown Manhattan cubicles for a minimum of three days a week.

A spokesperson for the New York Times Company told Insider that the union’s demands are “far outside the bounds for any organization, especially in such an uncertain economic climate.”

Management at the Gray Lady says that the union's salary demands are prohibitive.
Management at the Gray Lady says that the union’s salary demands are prohibitive.
AFP via Getty Images

If management caves to the guild’s wage hike demands, it would imperil the company’s ability to plow more investments into the newspaper’s journalism, according to the spokesperson.

The union, which is also asking for cost-of-living adjustments on top of its salary demands, has rejected management’s offer, saying that the proposed hikes are tantamount to a pay cut given the soaring levels of inflation, Insider is reporting.

Kevin Draper, a sports reporter for the Times, told Insider that the union’s demands were “eminently reasonable.” He also noted that the publicly shared company has paid out handsome rewards to executives as well as dividends to stockholders.

New York Times Guild negotiators have reminded management that the Gray Lady’s finances are sound given the fact that the publication has 10 million paid subscribers.

The New York Times Company has also dipped into its mountain of cash reserves to make some high-profile acquisitions including the all-sports news site The Athletic as well as the popular game Wordle.

Times staffers noted that the company has turned a handsome profit.
Times staffers noted that the company has turned a handsome profit.
AFP via Getty Images

Last month, the news site Axios reported that the Times generated $1.4 billion in subscription revenues for 2021 in addition to $497.5 million in advertising revenue during that same period.

Axios also reported that the Times is planning to “aggressively expand” its advertising business across its bundled products including Wordle, which has contributed mightily to the publication’s online reader engagement.

Times staffers said that the threat of a work stoppage may be the only tool they have left to force management to offer a more generous salary hike package.

“I think people feel that management doesn’t listen unless everybody is beside themselves and ready to walk out the door, so if that’s what it’s going to take, then that’s what it’s going to take,” Frances Robles, a Times correspondent based in Florida who is also a member of the union’s bargaining committee, told Insider.

Robles told Insider that while she personally does not want a strike, more hawkish members are agitating for a so-called “strike authorization vote,” which gives the bargaining committee discretion to declare a work stoppage if it views it as necessary.

The Times has recently made big-splash acquisitions including the word game Wordle as well as the sports digital news site The Athletic.
The Times has recently made big-splash acquisitions including the word game Wordle as well as the sports digital news site The Athletic.
AFP via Getty Images

Despite the gaps in their position, there are signs of progress in talks. Robles praised management for conceding to a key union demand — pegging raises to a reporter’s actual salary instead of basing it off the minimum pay for his or her peer group.

“I took it as a really important step,” Robles said.

“I think they are getting the message that the union of the past that was quiet and would roll over and not say much is not the case anymore.”

A Times spokesperson told Insider: “We’re actively working with the NYT NewsGuild to reach a collective bargaining agreement that financially rewards our journalists for their contributions to the success of The Times, is fiscally responsible as the company remains in a growth mode, and continues to take into account the industry landscape.”

The spokesperson added that the newspaper is  “proud to offer among the highest compensation packages and most generous benefits for our industry and we’re also proud to have a large and growing newsroom.”

“Though we’ve had a remarkable digital transformation, we still haven’t returned to the levels of net income we achieved in the years before the great recession when we were a bigger company,” the spokesperson said.


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Tyler Cowan