New York Times staff demand more pay, newspaper offers lunch boxes

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This report appears as one of many scoops featured in this week’s edition of Confident, the newsletter pulling the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, advice and complaints here.

Be fed up New York Times staff say there’s a ‘high likelihood’ they’ll end up on strike as they continue to tighten the screws on management in a bid to secure a pay rise amid messy contract negotiations .

Around 1,300 employees represented by the NewsGuild pledged to work from home on Monday as the Gray Lady tries to get them back into the office. Anger has reached boiling point over the lengthy collective bargaining process as employees have not seen a pay rise since March 2020.

Hundreds of employees sent emotional letters to publisher AG Sulzberger, editor Joe Kahn, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien and opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury, decrying the company’s salary structure, including a employee who admitted he had to start doing DoorDash deliveries to get his way.

And some of the paper’s most influential reporters got involved.

“When I started to Time in 2014 my salary was $128,000,” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Emily Steel wrote in one of the letters obtained and reviewed by Confider. “Since then, I have negotiated two merit increases. Yet, adjusted for inflation, my salary is now worth about the same as when I started in 2014. And since contract negotiations began in 2020, my salary is worth over $17,000 less.

In another scathing note, journalist Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs wrote: “The recent anti-union by the CEO, presumably endorsed by the editor and never (publicly) questioned by newsroom management, was a real punch and made me morally sick to continue working here. The delay in wage negotiations with a long-standing union has done the same.

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Time columnist Ginia Bellafante was equally searing in her letter: “Many of us are equally discouraged by the focus on ‘benefits’ – wellness initiatives, birthday announcements, global days off , etc., which, increasingly now, just looks like public relations, covering up inadequate pay and the product of expensive (and jargon-obsessed) consultants.

Among these “benefits”, the newspaper offered employees in lieu of pay rises: a Time– branded lunch box available for those who come to the office. “We hope they will be a connection point that brings all our colleagues together around a common theme: lunchtime”, Time brass wrote in a recent memo obtained and reviewed by Confider.

The staff members who spoke to us all expressed the feeling that the newspaper overvalued their work and cheated them. A strike may be the staff’s only option, these employees all said.

“Society has money and people are getting shares and dividends and higher salaries, and the people who aren’t getting it are the ones producing the thing,” sportswriter Kevin Draper told Confider. “The general feeling is that the workers were sacrificed when times were tough, but the company has made many millions of dollars from their work and they should be compensated with a realistic wage proposition and they are far from that.”

A Time The spokesperson wrote in response: “We respect the right of our fellow Guild members to have their voices heard… We are proud to offer one of the highest compensation plans in our industry and we are also proud to have a large and growing newsroom. We are actively working with the NYT NewsGuild to reach a collective bargaining agreement that financially rewards our journalists for their contributions to The Times’ success, is fiscally responsible as the company remains in growth mode, and continues to consider the industry landscape.”

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