Washington Post Journalists Announce 24-Hour Strike Amid Contract Dispute and Staff Cuts.
Representational image | Image courtesy: Washington Post
New Delhi: Unionised journalists at The Washington Post are set to undertake a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest against staff cuts and what they perceive as management's failure to negotiate in good faith during the 18-month-long contract talks. This potential one-day walkout would be the first general work stoppage at the Post since the 20-week pressmen's strike of 1975-76, union officials noted, during Katharine Graham's tenure as publisher.
According to the international news agency Reuters, the labour dispute arose just over a month after William Lewis, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, was appointed as the chief executive and publisher of the Post. The iconic Washington daily newspaper is anticipating a year-end loss of $100 million, with Lewis set to assume his role on January 2, 2024.
Struggling alongside numerous news outlets to establish a sustainable business model in the wake of the internet's impact on journalism economics and the subsequent decline in digital advertising rates, the Post, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, announced voluntary buyouts across the company. The objective is to reduce employee headcount by approximately 10%, with the newsroom size targeted to shrink to about 940 journalists.
The Washington-Baltimore News Guild, representing over 1,000 editorial, advertising, and other non-news staff at the Post, attributes nearly 40 layoffs last year, half from the newsroom, to mismanagement by the previous publisher. The company is now seeking to cut an additional 240 jobs through buyouts.
Despite the Reuters request for comment on the labour dispute, representatives for the newspaper's management have not responded.
The union claims that management has threatened further layoffs if insufficient staff accepts voluntary severance packages, potentially impacting the critical journalism that informs communities and holds public officials accountable. After 18 months of contract negotiations, the company is accused of refusing to pay what the union considers fair wages or engage in good-faith bargaining.
On the social media platform X (formerly known as Twitter), the union stated, "So on Dec. 7, we're walking off the job for 24 hours." A Guild-produced online video features Post journalists, including chief Ukraine correspondent Siobhan O'Grady, pledging to strike and urging readers to avoid Washington Post journalism during the walkout. The video emphasises the perceived inadequacy of the company's wage proposals in comparison to inflation and industry competitors.
Of the 1,000-plus Post employees covered under the News Guild's contract, over 700 are dues-paying union members, and nearly 750 staffers have committed to observing the strike, according to Sarah Kaplan, chief guild steward at the newspaper. Kaplan emphasised that while the paper may experience a day of disruption, the intention is to convey the message that "cutting and disinvesting in employees is not a path to success."
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