Revolt of the 99% towards the 1% inside the NYT

The New York Times Building.

You just never know who’s going to Occupy next!

Thanks to

NOT FIT TO PRINT: Hundreds of NYT Editors/Reporters (99%) Revolting Against Paper’s Executives (1%)

January 5, 2012

from The Troubadour

by David Harris Gershon

The spirit of Occupy Wall Street has entered the hallowed halls of The New York Times. Not because the paper is covering OWS, mind you. Rather, an uprising has arisen within the paper itself.

The reason for the uprising: while The Times is demanding that rank-and-file employees make sacrifices for the financial health of the paper – sacrifices that include pension freezes and the scaling back of health savings plans for foreign correspondents and staff working overseas – the paper is simultaneously granting outgoing CEO Janet Robinson a $15 million golden parachute. (Note: while $10.9 million come from pension benefits, Robinson has access to the funds immediately – ahead of schedule – despite being 61.)

Oh, and how much is the paper expected to save from the sacrifice of its 99% staff? According to Kyle Smith of Forbes, approximately $9 million, or just over half the amount being granted to a single executive who completely failed during a tenure that saw the paper’s stock price drop from $40 to $8 in seven years.

Feeling betrayed by the paper’s greedy executive class, over 500 current and former Times staffers – including reporters and editors – have signed a sharply-worded open letter to the paper’s publisher, Arthur Sulzberger Jr.:

Dear Arthur:We, the Guild leadership and many reporters, editors, account managers and other Times employees, Guild members and otherwise, are writing to express profound dismay at several recent developments.

Our foreign citizen employees in overseas bureaus have just had their pensions frozen with only a week’s warning. Some of these people have risked their lives so that we can do our jobs. A couple have even lost them. Many have spent their entire careers at the Times — indeed, some have letters from your father explaining the pension system — and deserve better treatment.

At the same time, your negotiators have demanded a freeze of our pension plan and an end to our independent health insurance.

We ask you to withdraw these demands so that negotiations on a new contract can proceed fruitfully and expeditiously. We also urge you to reconsider the decision to eliminate the pensions of the foreign employees.

We have worked long and hard for this company and have given up pay to keep it solvent. Some of us have risked our lives for it. You have eloquently recognized and paid moving tribute to our work and devotion. The deep disconnect between those words and the demands of your negotiators have given rise to a sense of betrayal.

One of our colleagues in senior management recently announced her retirement from the paper, which is reported to include a very generous severance and retirement package, including full pension benefits.

All of us who work at the Times deserve to have a secured retirement; this should not be a privilege cynically reserved to senior management. We strongly urge you to keep faith with your words and our shared mission of putting out the best newspaper in the world.

Noting that this developing revolt within The Times has been conspicuously absent from the paper itself, Smith (of Forbes) writes, sharp-tipped pen in hand:

When a failed CEO receives a $15 million golden parachute at the exact moment when Times foreign correspondents who put their lives on the line covering war are having their pensions frozen, isn’t it worthy of comment? And what of the moral implications of a company that extracts ever more concessions from its unions while holding executives to no apparent standard? “I feel that the gap between what Janet Robinson will be leaving with, and what we are being offered, is simply wrong,” wrote the paper’s domestic correspondent Tamar Lewin in a collection of open letters to management.

It bears noting that Paul Krugman’s name – as of this writing – has yet to be added as the paper’s staff plans an emergency meeting to be held on January 9, a meeting at which they will discuss their next move.

A general assembly at The New York Times?

Mic check, everyone.


Author’s Note 1:As of this writing, 580 former and current NYT staff have signed the aforementioned open letter. You can view all those who signed here.

Author’s Note 2:In the comments, many have smartly noted that perhaps contracted staffers, such as Krugman, are not a part of the Times’ guild, and would thus not sign their name to the open letter.

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