On Thursday, more than 370 workers in the Los Angeles Times newsroom sent a letter to management calling out the company’s attempt to lay off 74 workers, including 57 Guild-covered workers on the copy desk, web desk, photo desk, production desks and elsewhere. Leaders from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), National Association of Hispanic Journalists (NAHJ), Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Latino Journalists of California CCNMA quickly jumped in and called out Times’ management.
Your handling of this proposed layoff sends a clear message to the newsroom: You don’t care about the contract, and you don’t care about us.
We’re willing to do whatever it takes to win the contract that this newsroom deserves. You should be too. Starting now, we need to see a senior newsroom leader at every bargaining session — not just observing, but participating. Show us that you want to make progress. Show us that you care.L.A. Times Guild letter to management
Journalists, part of the Media Guild of the West TNG-CWA Local 39213, were in negotiations with management over the attempted layoffs Thursday. Several leaders pointed out that the layoffs predominantly targeted journalists of color.
“Latino and Asian staff members, in particular, are overrepresented among those who were notified yesterday that they will be laid off,” NAHJ wrote in a statement. “Latinos represent 26% of the 74 positions slated to be cut, and Asian Americans represent 15%. Figures released last year showed that Latinos comprised 15% of the Times newsroom.”
“Tough times require tough decisions, but newsroom diversity should not be a casualty, even during cutbacks,” said NAHJ President Yvette Cabrera. “We stand in solidarity with all those who were targeted during these layoffs, and we call on the L.A. Times to stand behind their commitment to raise the newspaper’s standards of diversity and better reflect the communities it serves.”
AAJA wrote that, “a healthy democracy requires an informed citizenry and widespread layoffs this year in newsrooms across the country put that in danger. Our hearts go out to our AAJA-LA members and others affected, and we are standing by to help.”
“This is yet another sign of a disturbing trend across our industry. When newsroom management makes these kinds of cuts, the public becomes less informed, which puts our very Democracy at risk,” said SPJ Vice President Ashanti Blaize-Hopkins. “We hope LA Times management adheres to its collective bargaining agreement with the LA Times Guild and offers buyouts to the unionized staff impacted before imposing these layoffs.”
In an open letter, CCNMA said, “This is especially distressing for a news organization in which Latino and other journalists of color are vastly underrepresented. Guild represented journalists who are Latino currently account for about 21% of the newsroom in a region where at least half the residents are Latino.”
“If the last few years haven’t been crystal clear, journalists are damn tired of being disrespected,” NewsGuild-CWA President Jon Schleuss said. “I know many of the targeted workers from my years at the Times and I am disgusted with the platitudes and disrespect from management. We built a union at the Times to safeguard the publication for our colleagues and our community. A diverse, supported staff is the key ingredient to the Times’ future success. I thank other journalism organizations for calling out management’s behavior and I always will stand with the L.A. Times Guild and the amazing workers in the newsroom.”