Washington Post Journalists Plan 24-hour Strike amid Prolonged Contract Talks
12:29 JST, December 6, 2023
Unionized journalists at The Washington Post said they would stage a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest staff cuts and what they call management’s failure to bargain in good faith in contract talks that have stretched on for 18 months.
The planned one-day walkout would mark the first general work stoppage at the Post since the bitter, 20-week pressmen’s strike of 1975-76, when Katharine Graham was publisher, according to union officials.
The latest labor clash comes a little more than a month after William Lewis, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, was named chief executive and publisher of the Post as the venerable Washington daily newspaper was projecting a year-end loss of $100 million. Lewis is due to take charge on Jan. 2, 2024.
The Post is one of many news outlets struggling to devise a sustainable business model in the decades since the internet upended the economics of journalism and digital advertising rates plummeted.
Executives at the Post, which is owned by billionaire Amazon.com AMZN.O founder Jeff Bezos, said at the time of the Lewis announcement that they were offering voluntary buyouts across the company in a bid to reduce employee headcount by about 10% and shrink the size of the newsroom to about 940 journalists.
The Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which represents more than 1,000 editorial, advertising and other non-news staff at the Post, said mismanagement by the previous publisher led to nearly 40 layoffs last year – half from the newsroom – and the company was now seeking to cut another 240 jobs through buyouts.
Representatives for the newspaper’s management did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the labor dispute.
According to the union, management has threatened to impose more layoffs if too few staffers accept voluntary severance packages.
“That means fewer Post employees making the critical journalism that keeps our communities informed and holds our public officials accountable,” the Guild said in an online statement.
Moreover, after 18 months of contract negotiations, “the company is refusing to pay us what we’re worth or bargain in good faith,” the union said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “So on Dec. 7, we’re walking off the job for 24 hours.”
A Guild-produced online video features numerous Post journalists, including chief Ukraine correspondent Siobhan O’Grady, pledging to strike and urging readers to “respect our picket line by avoiding Washington Post journalism” during the walkout.
They assert the company’s wage proposals would fail to keep pace with inflation or with the pay of competitors.
The minute-long video ends with the refrain, “because we’re worth more, worth more than our bosses are offering.”
Of the 1,000-plus Post employees covered under the News Guild’s contract, more than 700 are dues-paying members of the union, while nearly 750 staffers have pledged to observe the walkout, Sarah Kaplan, chief guild steward at the newspaper, said on Tuesday.
“The paper will suffer for a day, and that’s not something we take lightly,” she said, adding that the strike is intended to send the message that “cutting and disinvesting in employees is not a path to success.”
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