Members of New York Times union fight back over fee hikes
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The News Guild of New York is running out of money even as it succeeds in its recent organizing drives. And now it’s getting pushback on its plans to raise money by hiking membership fees.
According to Vanity Fair’s The Hive, the union behind recent unionization drives at the Daily News, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Quartz and NBC Digital has run down its reserves. Back in 2017, there were $11 million in reserves, but as of last year it dwindled to $5 million.
The union in 2020 ran a deficit of $1.5 million,, according to the report.
Now the Guild wants to push through a price hike that will be borne by the two biggest organizations in its fold: the New York Times, which counts 1,400 Guild members between the newsroom and the business side, and Reuters. Some members are pushing back, including at The Times.
“The Guild basically wants Times employees to underwrite the revolution,” according to one anonymous source quoted in the piece.
Times reporter Nicholas Confessore reportedly circulated a similar email message to Guild members. “It is not clear to me why the Guild has been deficit spending at such a high burn rate for so long and is only now seeking to bring income in line with expenses. Fundamentally, I think this is about asking current members to underwrite the costs of growing the Guild,” he said.
Some are blaming current president Susan DeCarva ahead of a June 1 vote on the dues hike.
“I’m deeply uncomfortable with the way that Susan and the Executive Council has pursued this and the questions raised about our current strategy of organizing,” NYT sports reporter Michael Powell reportedly wrote in an email that landed in the inbox of VF’s Joe Pompeo after circulating among Times Guild members.
“This is not to lay all these problems at Susan’s feet—The Guild’s structural financial problems stretch back at least seven years, and through three administrations,” the email reportedly said. “But she chose to increase Guild staff…and to fire up organizing in many shops.… Susan has real strengths.… She has a muscular sense of where we are headed and the training and organization she has implemented are terrific. But married to those strengths is an in-your-face style that has not served her well.”
Powell in his note to NYT staffers offered that he thinks the Guild is planning a strike at Conde Nast, where it represents The New Yorker, Pitchfork, Ars Technica and Wired and where it has staged one day strikes in the past.
Part of the problem is that the Guild does not collect dues until it secures a new contract, and many companies stall negotiations for years once a current contract expires. The Times itself had its contract for 1,400 members expire in March. It’s in the midst of negotiations for a new contract.
As an example: Guild members of Mashable, PC Magazine and AskMen.com, all part of J2 Media, voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to authorize a strike. The company voluntarily recognized the Guild as the bargaining agent in late 2018, but the company and the union have yet to come to terms.
A spokesman for the News Guild said that the 58 member executive committee representing the unions 42 bargaining units unanimously voted to for the first ever revision in the dues structure in the union’s history.
“The NewsGuild of New York believes deeply in building and sustaining a strong and active union,” the spokesman said. “This is an opportunity to set the direction for our union for decades to come.”
The debate comes as the Guild faces competition from the Writers Guild of America East, which at one time represented mainly TV and movie writers. In 2020, the Writers Guild won an election to represent nearly 300 editorial workers at Hearst Magazines, the publisher of Cosmopolitan, Esquire and Harper’s Bazaar.
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