Aug. 17, 2017 – Women and minorities earn less on average than their white, male counterparts at some of the nation’s most prestigious newspapers, according to analyses presented at a recent conference of The NewsGuild-CWA.
Union efforts to document and eliminate pay disparities at the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Minneapolis Star-Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com were the focus of a panel at a Guild meeting in Pittsburgh, Aug. 4-5. The intense interest in the panel discussion apparently mirrors the feelings in newsrooms across the country.
When confronted with union data showing a pattern of differences in pay, publishers generally denied there was a problem – even though they sometimes implemented individual salary adjustments, including increases as high as 27 percent, panelists reported.
Despite some progress, however, gender- and race-based pay inequities remain widespread.
The NewsGuild vowed to continue to fight the disparities, with President Bernie Lunzer declaring, “Pay equity is a fundamental human rights issue.”
WSJ Local Leads the Charge
IAPE, the NewsGuild local that represents employees at the Wall Street Journal, brought the issue to light in 2016 and again in 2017, long after it first documented pay inequities at the paper.
“We noticed pay gaps across gender, race and ethnicity in all areas,” said Tim Martell, the local’s executive director, speaking about 2015 pay data.
An IAPE analysis conducted in 2016 showed that women earned, on average, 86.8 percent of what men earned, up from 76 percent in 1991.
Dow Jones, which publishes the Wall Street Journal, refused to acknowledge inequities, but granted raises totaling $270,000 to 31 of 1,300 IAPE-represented employees, including at least one increase of 27 percent or approximately $14,870.
Not satisfied, IAPE reviewed the data again in 2017, this time employing a consulting firm, Strength in Numbers, to help analyze it.
“We found, again, what we believe was an alarming gap,” Martell said. On average, women at the paper made 87.2 percent as much as men. “Especially among the reporter category, there were distinct and persistent gaps, even when they had the same job title and the same number of years of experience.”
The consulting group conducted an age regression analysis to determine whether after accounting for experience there was still a gap, said Louise Radnofsky, a Wall Street Journal reporter who serves as the union’s director for the Washington Bureau.
The firm concluded there was, especially for women in their 30s. “It was really part of a pattern that was established when they first started working for the company” and would follow them through their careers, Radnofsky said. “The cost was staggering when you add it all up.”
The statisticians focused on reporters because that was the biggest group among Dow Jones’ 1,300 employees, said Bob Kozma, the local president.
“Unfortunately, sadly and shamefully, they could not analyze salaries for men or women of color because there were not enough people of color employed” to make valid comparisons, he said. “That is something we’re trying to correct.”
Dow Jones has failed to officially respond to the latest analysis, Martell said, but is in the process of providing additional pay increases, which the union expects will affect more than 20 employees and total approximately $170,000.
The Embarrassment Factor
Attracting the attention of union members and the public are important in motivating management to address pay inequities, Martell said.
IAPE has provided more than 400 comparisons to Guild members, while protecting the privacy of individual’s pay rates. “When they see where they fit and then can go back and discuss it with their manager – with data that supports them – it’s very helpful,” he added.
Public scrutiny is also key, according to Martell. “I cannot overstate the power of the embarrassment factor,” he said, referring to news organizations’ sensitivity to the public’s perception of them…. Our goal has been to lift the veil of secrecy.”
NewsGuild leaders at the New York Times, Washington Post, Star-Tribune and the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com found similar results.
Philadelphia Finds Its Footing
Following IAPE’s model, the Newspaper Guild of Greater Philadelphia has made substantial progress in reducing the wage gap over the last 16 months, Executive Director Bill Ross said.
The results of a study commissioned by the union in 2016 were “staggering,” he said.
It revealed that in all job classifications and in all years-of-service categories, average salaries for women were less than men.
Salaries for minorities were lower than overall average salaries, except for sportswriters. Of the 220 staffers, 62.4 percent were male and 37.6 percent were female. Just 13.2 percent were minorities. (According to a 2011 analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts based on the 2010 census, minorities comprise close to 60 percent of the city’s population.)
In addition, salaries paid to newsroom employees of the Philadelphia Daily News were lower than those paid to employees of the Philadelphia Inquirer among workers with the same job responsibilities and length of service, even though the publications are owned by the same nonprofit foundation.
After the study was concluded, union leaders presented a list of proposals to Philadelphia Media Network, the publications’ owners, which included recommendations for pay adjustments, examination of recruitment practices, re-establishment of a Newsroom Diversity Committee, and more in-depth analysis of disparities in pay between the Inquirer and Daily News.
Keeping the Pressure On
Management was keenly aware of the potential for embarrassment that evidence of pay disparities could cause and assured the union it would address the matter.
Union leaders kept up the pressure, sharing study results with union members and reaching out to potential allies. The Guild sought support from the board of directors of the foundation that runs the papers, and met with David Boardman, dean of Temple University’s School of Media and Communications, who was reportedly “appalled” by what he heard.
With contract negotiations underway, pay equity was front and center. Negotiations were key to helping the local significantly narrow the gap, Ross said.
An August 2017 follow-up analysis shows that the total gender gap variance is down by 41 percent, in large part as a result of negotiated salary increases. The three bottom steps of the wage scale were also eliminated during contract talks, reducing the number of years it takes to reach the top step from nine to six.
And, independent of contract negotiations, management granted women bigger merit increases than in the past – and more of them. Management also paid higher salaries to new female employees, decreasing the gap by 11 percent.
Average salaries for minorities also improved, but continue to be slightly lower than the average.
Salary increases totaled approximately $200,000, with one female minority receiving a “well-deserved” $20,000 annual increase, Ross reported.
As a result of the union’s efforts, the company has empowered the joint Labor-Management Diversity Committee, which has developed a new hiring policy that calls for aggressive recruitment of minority candidates. The foundation will fund nine fellowships for diverse candidates, and the newsroom plans to hire another 8-10 employees, with an emphasis on diversity.
The union will continue to monitor equity issues and will conduct another analysis next year, Ross said.
Are the Times Changing?
At the New York Times, a union study released in May 2016 revealed that people of color earned, on average, 10 percent less than their white counterparts and women earned 7 percent less that men, reported Grant Glickson, president of the NewsGuild of New York.
When the Guild presented its findings to the Times, management claimed the study failed to account for education and previous experience, and said it would conduct its own study.
Five months later, management announced to employees that it “found no evidence of discrimination in how employees are compensated in the groups we have examined.” The Times made a handful of adjustments, Glickson reported, without discussing them, or the methodology in management’s study, with the union.
Union members were infuriated by management’s lack of transparency, he said. A group marched on the boss’ office in protest, and dozens of people approached management individually, Glickson said. More adjustments were made, but the local remains dissatisfied.
Two employees have sued the paper, and, citing the lawsuits, management is refusing to provide the local with additional information.
A study of pay inequities in 2016 at the Minneapolis Star-Tribune felt like deja-vu, said Janet Moore, president of the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild.
She was the recipient of pay increases that resulted from a legal settlement in the mid-90s, when she was new to the paper, following similar revelations. “I kept getting called in and getting a $20 bump per week,” she said.
“They didn’t tell me what it was about, and I thought I was just doing a good job,” she said to laughter. “So I’m very grateful to the women of the Minnesota unit and all the Guild officers for leading the way on that.”
The Guild’s more recent study showed that women were earning, on average, 95 cents on the dollar compared to men; black women were earning 86 cents on the dollar, Hispanic women were earning 93 cents, and Asian women were earning 88 cents, she said.
But some young women said they were nervous about rocking the boat when pursuing pay equity, while others asked the Guild to help them negotiate a raise.
Borrowing a phrase from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, one young reporter told her, “If I want a raise, I’m going to lean in,” Moore recounted.
“I was flabbergasted,” she said, uncertain of how to respond. But Moore was certain that if the data showed a pattern of discrimination, the Guild should get involved.
About a week later, meeting with interns at the paper who, she said, increasingly know very little about unions, Moore found her voice. After telling them about her conversation with the reporter she said, “I’m leaning in with 249 people. Who’s going to get what they want? If you go in on your own, good luck. I’m glad you’re advocating for yourself, but I have the union behind me.”
Moore’s commitment to fighting for pay equity was reinforced when a union survey showed that pay equity ranked No. 2 among issues of concern to union members.
In mid-July, Guild leaders met with the publisher, who told them a new management study shows women are earning 98 cents on the dollar. The Guild is currently working with the company’s general counsel to get pay data so an updated study can be done.
“It’s very important to keep this fight up, not just for your paycheck now or next week, but for your future.”
Dying in Darkness?
The response of management of the Washington Post to evidence of pay disparities has been particularly frustrating for Guild members.
“Our journey started in the mid-90s,” said Cet Parks, executive officer for the Washington-Baltimore News Guild. To settle disputes at the time, in consultation with the union, management granted increases for minorities and women on an individual basis.
But after IAPE’s 2016 study gained attention, union members wanted to conduct another review.
In response to the local’s request, management provided data for 2014. The local hired an analyst, who crunched the numbers and put the information in a form that could be understood.
A committee of Washington Post employees produced a bulletin for union members, which revealed that, on average, women earned 86 percent of what men earned, and minorities earned 85 percent of what white employees earned.
“In the newsroom, men earn more than women in 8 of the 12 job titles we looked at. Male reporters make, on average, $7,000 more. Male columnists make $23,000 more than women doing the same jobs. Male foreign correspondents make about $8,000 more…,” the bulletin announced.
“We see the same troubling pattern when we look at race. In 9 of 12 job titles we looked at, white employees earned more (often significantly more) than their non-white colleagues…”
When union leaders met with the representatives of the employer, however, management “took the aggressive position that our data didn’t include experience,” Parks said. “We had length of service at the Post, but not overall experience.”
Management has rejected the union’s request to conduct a joint study. The union did receive additional information from management and is crunching the new numbers, Parks said.
Where to From Here?
So, how will the Guild advance the fight for equal pay for women and minorities?
“Every local has an obligation to request data from employers about the gender, racial identity, disabilities and pay of employees in their work units as they prepare for contract negotiations,” Lunzer told delegates. The Guild is trying to make the fight for pay equity “part of the fabric” of the Guild’s ongoing work, he said.
The union bargains over minimum wage rates, Lunzer said, but “discretionary pay,” pay above those minimums, is often not based on merit.
Locals that feel comfortable pursuing the issue on their own are free to do so, he said, but the Guild’s national office stands ready to assist when help is needed. Melissa Nelson, NewsGuild-CWA’s director of Collective Bargaining, coordinates this work for the national union.
Tackling pay disparities highlights the value of the union, Radnofsky pointed out during the question-and-answer session. It’s tough to address this issue at non-union news organizations, she said. And, because of intense interest among union members, pursuing the matter presents an opportunity to engage new activists, delegates noted.
News organizations, which pride themselves on holding the powerful accountable, are reluctant to have questionable pay practices exposed; the Guild should take advantage of this sensitivity to demand action.
Action is clearly needed: As Nelson noted, at the current rate, the pay equity gap in the U.S. won’t close until 2059.