Newsletter: NYT performance reviews show bias; Guild loses a good soul

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An analysis by members of the New York Times Guild published last week reveals stunning racial disparities in performance evaluations of Guild-represented employees by management at the New York Times.

The study found that being Hispanic reduced the odds of receiving a high score by about 60%, being Black cut the chances of high scores by nearly 50%, and being Asian lowered the odds of a high score by about 35%. In 2020, not a single Black employee received the highest rating, while white employees accounted for more than 90 percent of the roughly 50 people who received the top score.

Instead of addressing the discrepancies, which Guild members first exposed in a 2020 report using data from 2018 and 2019, management has downplayed and denied them for nearly two years. The company hired Seyfarth Shaw, an anti-journalist law firm, to analyze the data, which concluded that the disparities were minimal and inconsistent. The firm gained attention decades ago for representing California growers against workers led by Cesar Chavez and more recently for representing the Weinstein Company in harassment suits.

But multiple independent experts consulted by the Guild said the methodology union members used in their recent analysis was reasonable and appropriate. They also said that the approach the company used was either flawed or incomplete.

Some went even further, suggesting the company’s approach seemed tailor-made to avoid detecting any evidence of bias. Rachael Meager, an economist at the London School of Economics, was blunt: “LMAO, that’s so dumb,” she wrote when Guild journalists described the company’s methodology to her. “That’s what you would do if you want to obliterate signal,” she added, using a word that in economics refers to meaningful information.

In addition to calling out management for the disparities, the New York Times Guild is pursuing the issue in contract negotiations, which are ongoing.

Congrats to members of ROC United, who voted unanimously to ratify a new contract last week.

The Restaurant Opportunities Center was formed in 2001 after the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center took the lives of 79 employees who worked at Windows On the World, located at the top of Tower 1. The current CEO of ROC is a former restaurant worker who survived.

ROC United was formed in 2010, by a unanimous vote of the staff. It’s part of The NewsGuild of Greater Philadelphia and covers ROC organizers in Philly, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, New Orleans, Oakland, Mississippi, Washington DC and Washington state since 2010.

Highlights of the new three-year agreement include:

  • Higher minimum starting salaries of $50,000 for organizers and $55,000 for digital organizers
  • Wage increases 6%, 5% and 4%
  • Additional paid time off
  • Paid sabbaticals of 7 weeks after 7 years of employment
  • Additional paid holidays
  • Flex time

NewsGuild members in Puerto Rico denounced police attacks on journalists who were covering protests against Luma Energy last week. Island residents were urging the government to cancel the private company’s contract because of frequent and long-lasting power outages.

In a video posted on Twitter, a journalist can be heard shouting to police, “¡Prensa! ¡Prensa! ¡Acredicado!” (Press! Press! I’m accredited!) as he is roughed up by a police officer.

The Guild local, UPAGRA (La Union de Periodistas Artes Gracifcas y Ramas Anexas), joined other journalism organizations in denouncing the attacks. Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said Friday, the incidents would be investigated, the AP reported.

The newest version of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act is a lot like the old version: It still needs major improvement.

The revised Senate bill, announced last Monday by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and a bipartisan group of senators, would give news companies the right to bargain collectively with Google and Facebook to recoup advertising revenue the platforms have diverted from news organizations through their duopoly.

We’ve spent the last several months working to improve the bill, but it still lacks the necessary guardrails to make sure the added revenue is dedicated to hiring and retaining journalists.

Gannett, the biggest news chain in the U.S., is a good example of why the bill needs to be toughened up. Last year, CEO Mike Reed was paid $7.7 million, while Gannett journalists averaged just $48,419. The company authorized $100 million in stock buybacks, according to its SEC filings and in the last several weeks has laid off dozens of journalists. Yet under the language currently in the bill, Gannett could reap millions. And none of it is required to be spent on journalism.

Over the last several months, our efforts have secured several improvements to the bill:

  • If bargaining with Google and Facebook is fruitless and disputes go to arbitration, a higher portion of the total pie would go to companies that employ more journalists.
  • Companies like Gannett won’t have a large share of votes in bargaining. They will get one vote, giving smaller publishers a greater voice in negotiations.
  • Companies are required to publish how much money they receive from the platforms yearly, making sure journalists and the public know how much of a windfall they’re getting and whether they’re investing the money in providing better local news coverage.

We need to see additional improvements to the JCPA to make sure companies are staffing up newsrooms and not padding CEO’s pockets. Let your member of Congress know that the JCPA needs to invest in journalists and not hedge funds.

Union members at Guild-represented Gannett publications have been working together across the chain to expose the effects of Gannett’s ruthless, profit-above-all-else business model on journalists’ jobs and news coverage.

Hundreds of Gannett employees staged a “lunch out” on Aug. 11, in response to a string of emails from upper management that warned of layoffs due to the company’s self-inflicted second quarter financials. Less than a week later journalists organized together to demand answers at a management-sponsored Town Hall. Their chain-wide organizing efforts have clearly gotten the attention of management and media reporters.

They’ve also organized a community aid team that has distributed direct financial assistance to help laid off journalists with emergency costs, organized an online job board, and established a moral support letter-writing network.

The Duke University Press Workers Union is officially certified. Although we were confident of victory in March when NLRB rejected the company’s challenges to workers’ June 2021 vote, the final appeal by DUP to overturn the union election was denied just last week — Duke U. Press is unionized! Next stop: bargaining!

We lost a great leader last week, with the passing of Bill McLeman. Bill helped forge the Guild’s merger with CWA. He was key negotiator at the Vancouver Newspaper Guild and became its Executive Director. He eventually became the first Canadian director of the Guild and later the Guild’s director of field operations. He negotiated contracts all across North America — in Puerto Rico, Halifax, Wilkes Barre, Hawaii, Montreal, New York, Seattle, Vancouver and Victoria. Bill was beloved by many.

Bill McLeman
Bill McLeman

Labour/Labor Day is right around the corner! I hope you enjoy your holiday and get into a little good trouble. I’m excited to join the Canadian Media Guild marching in Toronto’s Labour Day Parade on Monday. I’ll also be in New York City for their parade on Saturday, Sept. 10. I hope to see you in person soon!

The NewsGuild’s Side-by-Side Program is an exciting way to provide national and local TNG staff with the opportunity to see colleagues in action and learn from each other. This model, advocated by CWA, has been an effective tool for staff development. Participants commit to 1 hour per week for 4 weeks beginning Sept. 6 and ending Oct. 3.Register here.

We’ve got many other great training for Guild activists scheduled through September. Upcoming events are listed on our calendar, with new events added frequently.
Organizing Around Grievances – 6-8 pm ET, Mon, Aug 29
Register here.
Contract Campaign Training – 6:30 pm ET, Wed, Aug 31
Register here.
Beating Back Bullying Bosses – 7-0 pm ET, Thurs, Sept 8
Register here.
Steward Training Module 6: Anti-Harassment Workshop – 12-2 pm ET, Sat, Sept 10
Register here.
Labor Law 101 – 6-8 pm ET, Sat, Sept 13
Register here.
Grievance Handling: Best and Worst Practices – 6-7:30 pm ET, Thurs, Sept 15
Register here.
Defending Our Rights – 1-3 pm ET, St, Sept 24
Register here.
Organizing Around Grievances – 6-8 pm ET, Tues, Sept 27
Register here.

NewsGuild members have been making news! Here are some clips.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA