Tech workers at the New York Times are officially fed up with the company’s union busting behavior.
On Tuesday, the NewsGuild of New York announced it was filing a formal complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) on the grounds that the company’s management stymied any outward support for the News Guild from the roughly 650 Times tech workers currently fighting for a union. Bloomberg was first to report on the filing, which states the Time’s top brass “interfered with, restrained, and coerced” these tech workers to discourage union involvement, and interrogated members about their union activity.
Specifically, the NewsGuild says that tech-facing employees at the Times that worked with interns were told that they couldn’t show support for the union in public. Bon Champion—one employee who helps develop the Times’s phone and tablet apps—told Bloomberg that workers were told this was meant to make interns “feel safe.” That means no pro-union avatars on Slack and no pro-union backgrounds during Zoom calls.
Champion also noted that Times management has roped him and his colleagues into mandatory meetings where managers simply outline why Unions Are Bad (they’re not).
A Times spokesperson told Gizmodo that the company “supports an election where everyone has the opportunity to vote on the proposed union” for its tech team.
“Once we announced that we support an election, we began briefing supervisors to ensure they understand the election process and the legal parameters for supervisor-employee conversations about the union,” she added. “We will continue to communicate with employees in a variety of formats to make sure they have all the information they need to decide if joining a union is right for them.”
According to the NewsGuild’s statement, the labor union already represents roughly 1,300 editorial and business-facing employees at the Times. It first announced the campaign to unionize close to 700 software developers, designers, and engineers back in April.
“While the media industry is highly unionized, the tech industry is less so,” said the Guild at the time, noting that this effort from the Times tech workers is one of the largest unionization efforts happening among tech workers at any company to date. Since then, a “strong majority” of these workers have signed union cards to show their support for the Times Tech Guild, NewsGuild wrote.
Times management has been... less supportive. About ten days after the Tech Guild went public, the company said that it wouldn’t voluntarily recognize a tech worker’s union at the Times, and members would instead need to put the matter to a formal vote. Tech workers still haven’t gotten a straight answer about why the Times refuses to recognize their union. In leaked audio of a recent all-hands meeting with staffers, Times CEO Meredith Levien was asked why the Times management was treating tech workers differently from say, Wirecutter staff, which were recognized almost immediately after their union went public in 2019. She replied that Wirecutter involved “a group of journalists instead of a group of digital product development and tech people,” and that there are “reasons why some tech workers don’t want to unionize.”
In fact, there’s been a recent groundswell of workers in the tech sector proving just the opposite. More than 400 Alphabet employees announced that they were forming a union at the start of this year, and we’ve seen similar moves taken at companies like Glitch in the aftermath.