Wirecutter Union Announces Black Friday Strike and Boycott
Working without a contract since The New York Times recognized the NewsGuild unit in 2019, the product recommendation staff is walking out during its busiest stretch — and asking readers not to shop with the site
The Wirecutter Union is going through with a strike that they have been threatening for weeks, timed for its busiest stretch of the calendar, the Black Friday shopping week. The specter of a strike haunted a labor rally held at The New York Times building last Tuesday, November 16. The Times voluntarily recognized the union, a unit of the NewsGuild of New York, in 2019, but employees of the product recommendation site have been working without a collective bargaining agreement ever since. Earlier this month, on November 8, the union threatened to strike unless an agreement was reached before Thanksgiving. At last week’s rally, the union’s interim vice chair Sarah Kobos, in a solidarity red long coat, told Off the Record, “We hope management comes to the table. We’re prepared to strike, and they have the power to stop that. And I hope they do.”
In its announcement on Tuesday, the union said, “100% of our unit will be striking from Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday,” and “The best way you can support us is by boycotting @wirecutter from 11/25-11/29,” which is one of the most active, and lucrative, shopping periods of the year. While The Times recently introduced a $40 per year Wirecutter subscription, the site makes the bulk of its revenue when its readers use affiliate links to make purchases from online retailers.
Their announcement struck a chord on Twitter, with the union quickly surpassing the initial $15,000 goal for a GoFundMe to make up for lost wages while employees are on strike. “There are members of our union that rely heavily on the insane overtime hours we usually work,” wrote Wirecutter senior staff writer Dan Kim in a tweet. “Last year, I worked 114 hours during the week of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Over 60 hours of which was from Thanksgiving to Monday.”
Management’s position — conveyed to the Wirecutter’s bargaining committee months ago — was they would not be able to meet for two weeks in November when the Wirecutter staff needed to focus on putting together content for the all-important shopping season. “The New York Times has a long history of productive relationships with unions to advance our shared objectives,” spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said. “We’re actively working with the Wirecutter Union to reach a collective bargaining agreement that continues to reward our employees for their work and contributions to The Times’s success, and we look forward to continuing those negotiations at the bargaining table. We’ve offered dates in early December to the Wirecutter Union and are awaiting their response.”
“This really breaks my heart. I want The New York Times to succeed, make money, and sell subscriptions,” wrote Times reporter Frances Robles in a tweet supporting the boycott. “But I don’t cross picket lines, and urge you not to either.” In another tweet, Alan Henry, who was a senior digital strategist at the Times and a liaison between the Wirecutter team and the newsroom before joining Wired in 2020, spelled out the stakes for a strike during the Black Friday period. “I’ve seen the numbers at play here,” he wrote, “and it’s… *disappointing* that management is willing to flush it all away.”
Four years ago, for a story about how Wirecutter planned to cover Black Friday 2017, Digiday described the post-Thanksgiving effort as an all-hands “war room” where “edit staffers, plus ten support staffers, will work in shifts to sift through a fire hose of deal offers coming from the retailers participating in America’s biggest digital shopping weekend.” The editors said the previous year they evaluated 23,000 deals before selecting 66 to offer to its readers.
When Off the Record asked Wirecutter Union chair Nick Guy about the possibility of a strike at the rally last week, he was succinct: “We’re ready to fight, we’re ready to win.”