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New York Times One Day Strike December 2022

May 16, 2023 at 12:15 am by PeterParker

nyc new york times news guild strike nyt writers newsroom strike 2022 nyc

* Picketing for the One Day Strike at the New York Times didn't Last a Day

How Not to do a Strike?

December 13, 2022 / NYC Business News / Midtown Manhattan / News Analysis & Opinion / Manhattan Buzz. 

Early last week I caught wind that there was an impending strike coming to the New York Times.  It was a snippet of a news story, but seemed important, given the prominence and influence of the Times. The Times is one of the two most prestigious papers in the nation along with the Washington Post, and one of a small number of such influential newspapers in the world.


NYT Strike on Thursday, December 8, 2022

nyt strike in nycSo, when I heard that the strike was actually happening on Thursday late afternoon, I dropped everything and headed down to the New York Times office building in Midtown Manhattan.  I had a hunch that the strikers would be disbanding - if not gone - by the time the TV news ended at 7 pm. 

It turns out I was right, as I arrived right around 7 pm and there wasn't a striker in sight.  I walked completely around the block, covering all street exits of the Times office building, including 8th Avenue and 40th and 41st Streets. The strikers had been there, just not for a very long time.

I asked several people coming out of the building about the strike.  Most of them shrugged me off, in a surly sort of manner.  One of them responded telling me that the strikers were there in the afternoon, marching along 8th Avenue.  But, as mentioned, there wasn't a striker in sight, and no trace that they had been there.  Unless they had slipped into Wolfgang's Steakhouse for drinks and dinner [see photo below].

The photo above right was taken outside of the Times office building in Midtown Manhattan around 7 pm on December 8, 2022 - the day of the one day strike. The picketing appears not to have lasted the day.

A reported 1,100 members of the News Guild of New York gave up a days pay, to stage the one day walk out on Thursday, December 8th.  The union represents 1,450 NYT employees, of which 1270 are newsroom personnel, according to the Wall St. Journal.  Based on the coverage I saw by other news organizations of the strike, far fewer folks picketed on Thursday, than the number of those who didn't show up for work and gave up the day of pay. My guesstimate of the number who picketed was in the low hundred(s).

* Picketing for the One Day Strike at the New York Times didn't Last a Day

How Not to do a Strike?

December 13, 2022 / NYC Business News / Midtown Manhattan / News Analysis & Opinion / Manhattan Buzz. 



Components of the Negotiations Between the NYT & News Guild Union

nyt strike in nycThe union, which won't negotiate with management in person, incited the strike to prod management into moving forward with the contract renewal negotiations on a contract that expired in March of 2021.  The negotiations included the fate of the pension vis a vis a 401K, medical benefits - specifically fertility insurance coverage, flex time for working in / out of the office, and of course pay. 

At present wage increases seem to be the sticking point.  According to PBS the Times is offering a 5.5% pay increase upon completion of the contract [providing for pay increases for the prior two years - 2021 & 2022], followed by 3% increases in 2023 and 2024.  The union wants 10% to cover the prior two years upon completion of the deal.  The 5.5% for the past two years is 2.75% per year, while inflation during the same period was 4.7% in 2021 and an estimated 7.5% for 2022.

Thus, the net of what the Times is offering in terms of pay - not the other components of which some appear to be additive - is a slight cut in pay when inflation is taken into consideration.

The photo at right was taken looking into Wolfgang's Steakhouse, while covering the NYT Strike outside, on December 8, 2022.


NYT & U.S. Media Industry Finances & Employment

The union argues that the Times is doing well, having generated over $220 million in profit last year [2021].  According to NY Magazine, the Times is also on track to make a profit of $300 million this year.

But that said, it's worth noting that of late, the media industry has continued shedding employees / jobs.  According to CNN, Gannett recently laid off 200 employees, PBS is looking to cut $10 million from its budget, and CNN itself laid off hundreds of staffers.  According to Axios there have been about 3,000 layoffs in the media industry in the past year, with 1,100 of those coming from news media, including Netflix and Warner Bros.


Strikers Negligible Impact on NYT Operations

During the one day strike, on Thursday, December 8th, the Times website was published as if nobody was missing.  The Times had employees prepare advance work, like they do for the weekend edition, while keeping a skeleton crew on board for breaking news. 

Some journalists compared the one day NYT strike this past week, to a prolonged 114 day strike staged in 1962 & 1963, musing how times had changed.  In the 1962 - 1963 strike 17,000 union members walked out on the seven NYC dailies.  At the end of the strike, four of the seven papers folded. But back then newspapers were [categorized as] manufacturing businesses, because they actually 'produced' the news by converting paper and ink into information that was delivered like milk, to customers' front doors.


NYT Ownership Still Controlled by the Sulzberger Family

It's worth noting that in August an activist investment firm, ValueAct, acquired 7% of the stock of the New York Times.  The Times is currently valued at $5.7 billion and today a stake that size would cost about $400 million.  The investment firm reportedly plans to push the NYT to more aggressively monetize its assets. 

Carlos Slim Helu acquired nearly 7% of the Times stock in 2008.  He then proceeded to lend the Times $250 million, which was repaid in 2011, three years ahead of schedule.  Helu increased his stake in the Times in 2015 to 17%.  In 2017 Helu pared back his holdings, by about a half million shares, out of a total of the 28 million shares he held.

The Sulzberger Family still retains control through a dual class share structure, whereby they control 70% of the board seats with only 20% of the stock.  The Sulzberger Family has controlled the New York Times since 1896.


Beware our Changing Times - Know Who Controls the Integrity of the Information you Consume

Lastly, a word of caution.  It's worth noting that investment firms and billionaires are rapidly gobbling up what's left of the newspaper world.  They also appear to be interested in using the media to push their own narratives onto the public.  Rupert Murdoch is an extreme example of someone who appears to use his mass media outlets to manipulate the public, but increasingly he's no longer the exception. The super wealthy - including Elon Musk, Donald Trump and tightly controlled investment firms - have acquired, founded or taken positions in most of the medium to large sized newspaper, broadcast and online outlets.  Unfortunately many of them appear to be using the outlets they control to push their own narratives, sometimes regardless of the facts. 

So, remember that the world is constantly changing.  And while the logos of the media outlets you rely upon may not change, the people behind the scenes who are running them, do.

Have a good one.