New York Times' Wirecutter Staff Goes on Strike Ahead of Black Friday

6 days ago 3

Unionized staffers at New York Times Co. NYT 0.33% ’s product-review website Wirecutter say they have gone on strike due to a contract stalemate with the paper’s management.

Wirecutter staffers plan to strike through Nov. 29, which is Cyber Monday—a popular online shopping day that comes days after Black Friday. The period is Wirecutter’s busiest and most profitable of the year, according to Nick Guy, the Wirecutter Union unit chair and a senior staff writer for the site.

“This is the time of the year that we really work for months and months and months,” Mr. Guy said. “I think it is an appropriate time to really show the value that we do bring to the company.”

The 65 union members participating in the strike represents 100% of the section’s union-eligible workforce. The union says it is seeking wage increases that total about $300,000 in the first year.

Staffers are asking for a 2.5% guaranteed annual wage increase, and higher minimum salaries across four pay bands. So far, Times management has agreed to a 1% guaranteed annual increase plus the option for merit-based raises, Mr. Guy said.

“The New York Times has a long history of productive relationships with unions to advance our shared objectives,” said Danielle Rhoades Ha, vice president of communications at the New York Times. “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.”

She added that the Times has offered dates in early December to the Wirecutter Union to come to the bargaining table, and are awaiting their response.

Workers across the U.S. are increasingly demanding more from their employers. Employees at Deere & Co., Kellogg Co. and Mondelez International Inc. have gone on strike at various points this year.

These standoffs have also come during a tight labor market where many businesses have struggled to grow their ranks as record numbers of workers quit their jobs.

Wirecutter, which the Times Co. bought in 2016, is a consumer guide that reviews everything from cable modems to cat litter. The Times began selling stand-alone subscriptions to Wirecutter on Sept. 1. The site gained 10,000 net subscriptions in the first month behind a paywall, the company said in its earnings results earlier this month.

Before the paywall, Wirecutter generated revenue primarily through affiliate partnerships with online sellers, including Amazon.com Inc. When a consumer follows a link on the site to purchase a product, Wirecutter receives a commission on the sale. Those affiliate relationships have continued, providing a way to monetize nonsubscribers.

Mr. Guy said he created a GoFundMe page to help Wirecutter staffers make up for lost income through the strike. It had made more than $32,000 as of Thursday morning. 

Tens of thousands of American workers are on strike and thousands more are attempting to unionize. WSJ examines the roots of this new labor activity and speaks with a labor economist for more context on U.S. labor’s changing landscape. Photo: Alyssa Keown/AP

The union would collectively work hundreds of hours in overtime during this period, Mr. Guy said. “We’re excited to be standing together in this and are so excited about the support we’ve been getting,” he said.

The union has also asked readers to avoid Wirecutter over the busy shopping period. “We’re asking readers to boycott the site, including not visiting or purchasing products through our content,” Mr. Guy said.

The Wirecutter Union is part of the News Guild of New York, which also represents outlets including the New Yorker, Forbes and Time Inc. The Times Guild, which includes employees in the New York Times newsroom, is a separate unit within the News Guild of New York. Tech workers at the company are currently seeking union recognition from Times management, and would make up a third unit.

The Wirecutter Union plans to return to work after Cyber Monday.

“It’s not an indefinite strike so we’ll see how bargaining goes when we do return,” Mr. Guy said. “Hopefully we’ll be able to wrap this up in a way that is fair to our members.”

—Allison Prang contributed to this article.

Write to Rachel Wolfe at rachel.wolfe@wsj.com

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