New York Times Staff Demands More Pay. Paper Offers Lunch Boxes.

·3 min read
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

This reporting appears as one of several scoops featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the newsletter pulling back the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.

Fed-up New York Times staffers say there is “a strong likelihood” they end up on strike as they continue to turn the screws on management in an effort to secure a pay hike amid messy contract negotiations.

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

Hundreds of employees sent emotional letters to publisher A.G. Sulzberger, executive editor Joe Kahn, CEO Meredith Kopit Levien and opinion editor Kathleen Kingsbury, railing against the company’s pay structure—including one employee who confessed they’ve had to start doing DoorDash deliveries to make ends meet.

And some of the paper’s heavy-hitter reporters have gotten involved.

“When I started at the Times in 2014, my salary was $128,000,” Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Emily Steel wrote in one of the letters obtained and reviewed by Confider. “Since then, I’ve negotiated for two merit-based raises. Yet, adjusted for inflation, my salary now is worth about the same as it was when I started in 2014. And since contract negotiations began in 2020, my salary is worth more than $17,000 less.”

In another scathing note, reporter Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs wrote: “The recent union-busting by the CEO, presumably endorsed by the publisher and never (publicly) questioned by the newsroom leadership, was a real gut punch and made me feel morally sick about continuing to work here. The delay in negotiating wages with a longstanding union has done the same.”

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Times columnist Ginia Bellafante was similarly searing in her letter: “Many of us are just as disheartened by the emphasis on ‘perks’—the wellness initiatives, birthday announcements, global days off and so on—which, increasingly now, seem merely like PR, cover for inadequate pay and the product of expensive (and jargon obsessed) consultants.”

Among those “perks” the paper has offered staffers in lieu of wage increases: a Times-branded lunch box available to those who come into the office. “Our hope is they will be a connection point that brings together all of our colleagues around a common theme: lunchtime,” Times brass wrote in a recent memo obtained and reviewed by Confider.

Staffers who spoke with us all conveyed a feeling that the paper is riding high on their work and ripping them off. A strike may be the staff’s only option, these employees all said.

“The company has money and people are getting shares, stocks, dividends, and higher salaries, and the people who aren’t getting it are people who produce the thing,” sports reporter Kevin Draper told Confider. “The broad-based feeling is the workers sacrificed when times were bad, but the company earned many millions of dollars through their work and they should be compensated for it with a realistic wage proposal and they aren’t anywhere near that.”

A Times spokesperson wrote in response: “We respect the rights of our colleagues in the Guild to make their voices heard… We’re proud to offer among the highest compensation packages for our industry and we’re also proud to have a large and growing newsroom. 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.”

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