Politics

At Slate.com, Questions About the New York Times Strike Are Answered

A shot of the New York Times skyscraper headquarters looking up from street level with the "New York Times" sign over the entrance crudely scratched out in red pen.
N—Y— T— headquarters, in New York City. Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by NurPhoto/Getty Images.

What is going on at the New York Times right now?

Members of the New York Times Guild, a 1,400-member union that includes but is not limited to writers, are staging what it’s referring to as a daylong Thursday walkout to protest what the union describes as management’s unwillingness to hold serious negotiations over (among other things) pay increases. (Other outlets are calling it a strike or a one-day strike.) It’s the longest labor stoppage at the paper since 1978, and the union has asked readers to support its members by not “engaging” with any Times content during the day—no clicking links, no buying copies at the newsstand, no playing Times-owned games like Wordle, etc.

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Not even Wordle? But what about my precious “Wordle streak”?

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SOSAD! Brainy, phone-friendly downtime-killing alternatives to Wordle include Quordle, Worldle, and just playing chess.

What is Times ownership saying about the strike?

That it is “disappointing” and that the pay increases it has offered are substantial.

Who’s right, the bosses or the workers?

According to the Washington Post, the union is seeking “average pay raises of 5.5 percent in both 2023 and 2024,” while “the company countered with two years of 3 percent increases.” According to itself, the Times expects to make an operating profit of more than $320 million this year. It’s also recently purchased several other media properties, most prominently the Athletic, for $550 million, which union members believe to be evidence that it has the means to pay them much more than it’s offering to. You can read more about the union position in this interview at Hell Gate, a local NYC news site.

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$320 million in profit! I thought “times” were tough in the newspaper business these days!

“Times” aren’t so tough for the New York “Times,” which has benefited in a self-perpetuating way from having an established brand as smaller, local outlets go out of business. The company claims more than 10 million active paid subscriptions.

Is it true that you have to get a separate subscription to read many of the Cooking section recipes even if you’re already a digital news subscriber?

Yes! It’s outrageous.

Are recipes considered Times content for the purposes of strike support?

Yes.

Oh no. Oh God. How am I going to eat tonight?

Hot dog.

Has participation in the strike been universal?

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No. While 80 percent of union members pledged to walk out, Semafor is reporting that those who did not include Peter Baker, the paper’s chief White House correspondent, and Michael Shear, another high-profile member of the D.C. bureau. (Neither commented to Semafor on their decision.)

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It’s concerning that the primary journalist tasked with holding the U.S. president accountable for the most important newspaper in the country would take such a deferential posture toward authority in his own life …?

As a fellow member of an industry in which employment at the increasingly market-bestriding Times is known to be one of the few ways to make a salary that can sustain a family living anywhere near the New York City area, I’m glad you (bolded alter ego) said that, and I would like to further assert that I don’t think Baker or anyone in New York Times management has ever made a bad decision.

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So are these Times staffers doing anything to get those bosses’ attention? Is there any sort of physical protest happening?

Yes, “Scabby the rat”—an inflatable rat that labor groups place outside the offices of employers who they believe to be treating them unfairly—is outside the Times building as we speak, and striking employees are holding a rally.

But how are labor-friendly New York Times readers, particularly older ones who might not be as active elsewhere online, going to find out that they’re not supposed to be reading the New York Times, except by reading the New York Times?

Well, that’s kind of the whole problem in a nutshell, isn’t it?

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