New York Times Unions Return to the Office for a Labor Rally

At the first in-person event that included all three NewsGuild units at The Times, members denounced management for union-busting and called for better compensation

It felt like unfamiliar territory when the leaders of The Times Guild, The Times Tech Guild, and the Wirecutter Union arrived at the 41st Street entrance of The New York Times building on Tuesday morning. They had long been working remotely, and, so, when they set the location for the first in-person rally to bring together all three bargaining units, they were unaware of the fences that had gone up, the Bobcat excavator that had taken up residence in front of the doors, or the overwhelming rumble of construction. “This is my first time in the building since before Covid,” said Sarah Kobos, a senior photo editor at Wirecutter and interim vice chair of the site’s union. “I walked in to check it out, and it was very loud.” So a decision was made to move the rally around the block to the entrance on 40th Street.

Around noon, a crowd gathered at the new site to carry the message of the day: they wouldn’t stand for union-busting. The youngest sat in strollers, and the oldest were retirees. Some in the crowd wore sports coats under scarves, others braved the November chill in flip-flops. Some doubled up on masks, others breathed easy in the open air. Puffer coats seemed to be predominant. A member of the Tech Guild held his dog on a leash. “We’ve got dogs, we’ve got babies, we’ve got it all, folks,” said an organizer as she tried to corral the crowd together for a photo.

“We can’t block the entrance, but we can get daringly close,” the organizer shouted, and the crowd moved forward slightly, establishing a narrow corridor through which people, often with slightly hunched shoulders and their gaze averted from the union members, rushed into the building past unmasked security guards. From windows on the second floor of the Times building, a clutch of people in business attire observed the proceedings below but dispersed after cameras and fingers pointed in their direction. As the speeches got underway, Tim Dubnau, the deputy director of organizing at the NewsGuild’s parent union Communication Workers of America, asked the crowd, “Is management working remotely?” The Times Guild unit chair Bill Baker, in a black leather jacket, pointed at the building and shouted back, “No, they’re inside!”

Kathy Zhang, a member of the Times’s analytics team and an organizer with the Tech Guild, which has yet to be certified, delivered one of the fieriest speeches. “Leadership has been spreading anti-union talking points and misinformation to sway voters through view-only live streams, one-way Slack channels, and, honestly, time-wasting 101 sessions,” she said. “Leadership is so dedicated to their anti-union campaign that just this morning, the National Labor Relations Board informed the company that they broke the law. To put it another way, the government just determined that The New York Times has been engaging in illegal union-busting.”

Later, while marching in a picket line that formed after the speeches finished, Zhang told Off the Record more. “We filed three unfair labor charges in the summer, and the NLRB found one of them to have merit,” she said while a nearby drum set the marchers’ pace. “Basically, management told one of our members who was managing an intern over the summer — so just for ten weeks — that he was not allowed to show support for the union because he was a supervisor, but he’s not a supervisor based on the law. They did the investigation and sent the notice to management this morning.”

Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha disputed Zhang’s account. “We support the right of all eligible employees to decide whether or not joining a union is right for them, and we will respect the outcome of the National Labor Relations Board process,” she told Off the Record. “It is inaccurate to say there has been a ruling against the company. We were just informed this afternoon that the union withdrew a charge containing two allegations that were filed in June. The NLRB is continuing to pursue another one that was also filed in June.”

A NewsGuild spokesperson subsequently clarified that “the official ruling isn’t available yet, but we can share when it is.”

The picket line had other messages to convey to management. “Hey Times bosses, here’s some news!” went one chant. Another chant rang out from the picket line: “Hey, Gray Lady! Time to pay me!”

“If the company doesn’t come back to the table and finish up our contract, a fair contract, before then,” said Wirecutter unit chair Nick Guy, “we do plan on striking during the Black Friday week.” With those developments on the horizon, Kobos added, “this seems like a very good time to come together and just fucking protest the Times anti-union stances on a lot of things.”