Yesterday, Dec. 8, marked the first time in over 40 years that unionized employees of the New York Times went on strike. The Freelance Solidarity Project and other freelancers joined in solidarity.
What’s this strike about?
Over 1,100 New York Times workers participated in the strike, according to numerous media reports. That group included reporters, editors, and photographers but it also included others who aren't directly related to producing content, like sales teams and security guards.
The one-day walkout is a breaking point that comes after workers have carried on for over a year without a contract, Axios explained.
The affected NYT workers’ last contract expired in March 2021, and they’ve been attempting to bargain for a number of requests, such as health and pension benefits. The sides are far apart on issues such as remote work policies and the company’s employee evaluation system, said the New York Post.
“We’ve been fighting for other things like what happens to our health plans, how much the company contributes to the health plans, work from home versus in person, how that’s going to be going into the future. Those are the big ones. The pension plan was gutted in favor of a 401k many years ago," striking working Ainara told World Socialist Web Site.
But a key sticking point, media outlets report, is the request raises.
“The union is pushing for among other things a cost of living increase on top of a real-wage hike, including a minimum base pay of at least $65,000, which it says the company is opposing,” the New York Post stated.
“We’re fighting for fair wages. The New York Times is doing well as a company, given how poorly we as a whole are doing and have been doing. Our management has been getting raises over the last two years. None of us have been getting raises, so we’re fighting for the pay floor to be raised," Ainara also said.
Why the freelancer support?
The Freelance Solidarity Project is the digital media division of the National Writers Union and has over 600 members. Plus, there is range of non-member freelancers who pledged solidarity by not crossing the picket line.
That means those freelancers, many of whom work with the New York Times, would not do any writing, editing, photo and design work, copy editing, and fact checking and other tasks during the strike.
Those freelancers also vowed not to pitch, submit pending edits, or even communicate with management during the work stoppage.
“It’s crucial, now more than ever, that freelancers refuse to be used as scab labor, serving as replacements when staff employees go on strike. The pitifully low rates offered to freelancers exist in part because media work overall has been so devalued,” explains an article in The Nation written by a freelance journalist and two writers who contribute to the New York Times.
It goes on to add that the New York Times raked in $51 million in the last quarter. Unlike many others, this is a media organization that’s highly profitable, and employees helped create those profits. Now, they want a fair share.
“The only way to improve working conditions for some of us is to improve working conditions for all of us,” the article said.
“We freelancers are organizing alongside staff unions to ensure security for everyone laboring in media, no matter where and how they work,” it added.
Don't forget to subscribe so you never miss a story!