As they launched an employee walkout this afternoon, the New York Times Guild beseeched readers not to cross the digital picket strike, even for their favorite puzzle. 

The Times Union is one of several media organizations demanding better worker policies. Photo: Naty Caez

Members of the 1,300-strong media union gathered outside the Midtown headquarters of the New York Times at W40th Street and 8th Avenue Thursday, to demand a fair contract and equitable pay across roles at the paper of record. 

“This is not a decision we take lightly,” read a statement from The NYT Guild. “We know you count on us for vital news and information. Our fight to ensure a living wage for the most vulnerable among us and fair pay for everyone, for evaluations free of racial bias and to protect our healthcare is really about the future of journalism at the Times. Without these protections and benefits, our journalism suffers and we will fall behind those of our competitors. Notably, the company can certainly afford to invest in its employees, despite management’s fear-mongering: the company is on track for an annual operating profit of at least $320 million, and has approved $150 million in stock buybacks to investors.” 

The union went on to urge readers to boycott the paper — including daily puzzles like the paper’s famous crossword, the world’s most-searched for game, Wordle and Spelling Bee for a full 24 hours as a show of support for the strike. 

Organizers spoke to union members and media outside the Times. Photo: Naty Caez

Guild members are hoping to rectify a number of salary issues, including historically lower pay and a lack of promotions for women and employees of color, a “loyalty penalty” for employees hired during a downturn, high out-of-pocket healthcare plans and a lack of meaningful raises despite the paper’s financial profits. Additionally, the guild is advocating for a significant overhaul of the paper’s diversity, equity and inclusion, remote work and career development policies, citing employee talent retention as a major roadblock at the publication. 

“In contract after contract, management has demanded, and won, givebacks from hard-working members,” said NYT Guild First Chair Helen Verongos in a statement. “Year after year, the company has ping-ponged from one project to another, abandoning this week’s focus for the next big thing, and throwing money wildly in every direction except its finest asset: the workers who make it all happen. At the negotiating table, management publicly undermines our talents and intelligence by engaging in theatrics and openly disdaining our fight to forge a thoroughly diverse organization and report.” 

Added NYT Guild Unit Chair Bill Baker: “After 20 months of bargaining I have seen management time and time again refuse to give members what they deserve, and if walking out is what it takes to remind them that WE are the ones who make the New York Times, I am ready.” 

Members of the New York Times Guild protest in front of the paper’s Midtown headquarters. Photo: Naty Caez

The walkout is one of several recent high-profile media unionizations, including publishing house Harper Collins Union, which has been on strike since November 10, The NBC News Union which has been demanding a fair contract from the channel for 1,000 days and the Condé Nast Union, which was recently recognized by the notoriously stingy media conglomerate. But even with recognizable unions, media workers are still at risk, as evidenced by Buzzfeed’s layoff of 12 percent of its employees this week

For now, members of the New York Times Guild thanked readers for their support in holding the paper’s management accountable, even if just by forgoing a day of Wordle: “You are all Queen Bees in our hearts, but we are sick of management’s games. Stand with us on the digital picket line!” 

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