Washington Post journalists plan 24-hour strike as contract talks falter

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Unionized journalists at The Washington Post said they would stage a 24-hour strike on Thursday to protest staff cuts and what they call management’s failure to bargain in good faith in contract talks that have stretched on for 18 months.

The planned one-day walkout comes weeks after William Lewis, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, was named chief executive and publisher of the Post as the venerable Washington daily newspaper was projecting a year-end loss of $100 million.

The Post is one of many news outlets struggling to devise a sustainable business model in the decades since the internet upended the economics of journalism and digital advertising rates plummeted.

Executives at the Post, which is owned by billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, said at the time of the Lewis announcement that they were offering voluntary buyouts across the company in a bid to reduce employee headcount by about 10% and shrink the size of the newsroom to about 940 journalists.

Contract between talks between the Washington Post and journalists have stretched on for 18 months. AFP via Getty Images

The Washington-Baltimore News Guild, which represents more than 1,000 editorial, advertising and other non-news staff at the Post, said mismanagement by the previous publisher led to nearly 40 layoffs last year, and the company was now seeking to cut another 240 jobs through buyouts.

Representatives for the newspaper’s management did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on the labor dispute.

According to the union, management has threatened to impose more layoffs if too few staffers accept voluntary severance packages.

The Washington Post, owned by Jeff Bezos, projecting a year-end loss of $100 million. REUTERS

“That means fewer Post employees making the critical journalism that keeps our communities informed and holds our public officials accountable,” the Guild said in an online statement.

Moreover, after 18 months of contract negotiations, “the company is refusing to pay us what we’re worth or bargain in good faith,” the union said on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter. “So on Dec. 7, we’re walking off the job for 24 hours.”

In a Guild-produced online video, numerous Post journalists, including chief Ukraine correspondent Siobhan O’Grady, appear sequentially on camera pledging to join hundreds of co-workers in the strike and urging readers to “respect our picket line by avoiding Washington Post journalism” during the walkout.

Williams Lewis was named CEO last month. The Washington Post via Getty Images

The minute-long video ends with the refrain, “because we’re worth more, worth more than our bosses are offering.”

Lewis is set to take on his duties from Jan. 2, 2024, replacing Patty Stonesifer, who became interim chief executive in June, and Fred Ryan, who stepped down in August after a nine-year stint as publisher and CEO.

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