Anyone who’s sent a private and important email to multiple recipients knows it can be complicated. You have to check the order of the recipients, cc assistants that remind the higher-ups to read and respond to said message, and, most importantly, make sure you don’t send the email to someone you’re not supposed to. I bet one New York Times lawyer is currently wishing the Earth would swallow him for forgetting that last one.
Last week, Times outside counsel Michael Lebowich, a partner at the law firm Proskauer Rose, made the mistake of emailing a memo titled “Tech Organizing Unit Scope Decision Options” to representatives of the union for the outlet’s technology and product employees, according to the Daily Beast. The memo detailed options the Times could take to deal with the proposed union, the New York Times Tech Guild, and limit its impact. The Guild claims that 70% of workers have pledged to vote in support of a union.
The Times has refused to voluntarily recognize the Guild, which represents about 600 workers, and has opted for holding an election carried out by the National Labor Relations Board. Both sides are also fighting over which employees are eligible to vote, with the paper seeking to restrict the election to software engineers. Union representatives say this would slash the potential bargaining unit by more than a third.
The Daily Beast states that Lebowich sent the email to several of his coworkers at Proskauer Rose and to Andrew Gutterman, Times senior vice president and deputy general counsel. In addition, he cc’ed Rachel Sanders, an organizer for the New York chapter of the NewsGuild, a union for the news media that represents the Times’ tech and product employees.
Lebowich lays out three options for the Times in the email. One option involved allowing for a larger union—i.e., allowing more employees to participate in the vote—which the law firm argued could possibly allow the paper to defeat the union proposal in an election. A second option called for permitting a medium-sized union. Meanwhile, authorizing a smaller union would probably mean the effort would succeed, but would be limited in its scope and size.
The Times decided to go with the most “aggressive” option, the Daily Beast reported. This would potentially create a union with less than 400 members.
Angela Guo, an organizing member for the New York Times Tech Guild, told the outlet that the email showed the Times was not holding an election to ensure all voices were represented. Its goal was to make the union as weak as possible, she maintained.
“That is not a neutral stance, that is not indicative of wanting a free and fair election in which everyone’s voices are heard,” Guo said. “This is just additional proof they are being disingenuous with their intentions.”
A Times spokesperson told the Daily Beast that the email contained a “range of options the Company has and considerations for each choice,” also acknowledging that it was sent to the union representative by accident.
“We have continued to assess our position, and today, as part of the NLRB process, we submitted a legal filing in response to the Guild’s petition that outlines which groups we think should be organized together in the same unit, as well as who we think is and is not eligible for the unit,” the Times spokesperson said. “Our view is that each of our functions has vastly different responsibilities, performs different work, and has separate supervision. This does not preclude employees from forming other units.”