The New York Times has been accused of illegal interference in employees’ union activism, according to a legal complaint by federal labor officials.
In a complaint dated Dec. 29th, an acting director of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) alleged that members of The New York Times management told employees during a Zoom call last May that they were forbidden from showing union support while acting as “intern managers”—a policy which the NLRB claims has continued unabated. The complaint alleges that employees were discouraged from using pro-union avatars and backgrounds in apps such as Slack and Google Meet.
“We strongly disagree with the union’s allegations about the supervisory status of certain technology employees and welcome the opportunity to explain our position to the board,” said New York Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades Ha in an emailed statement to Bloomberg.
The claim is slated for consideration at a March trial.
The complaint is the latest development in a saga that goes back at least to last April, when The New York Times refused to recognize voluntarily a recently-formed union representing over 650 employees, saying instead that the matter must be put to a formal vote.
In 2007, The New York Times endorsed in an editorial a policy that would allow workers to unionize with a simple majority of signatures, as opposed to a formal vote. The Times argued that employers could use the time before the vote to coerce employees to vote against unionization. Almost fifteen years later, employees of the Times are lamenting the constant delays in the process of unionization, with many arguing that the Old Gray Lady is stalling the process by refusing to cooperate with labor organizers.
“The NLRB informed Times management of their decision and offered them the opportunity to settle the charge. The penalties would be minimal and no cost to the company—posting a notice with the promise not to break the law again,” said the New York Times Tech Guild on Twitter on Wednesday.
“Management has refused this option, opting to spend more money on legal fees to fight the decision rather than posting this straightforward notice. This means that the NLRB will now prosecute NYT for violating federal labor law and hold a trial in March.”
The Times is only the latest in a list of media companies whose employees have attempted to organize, with similar efforts occurring at Buzzfeed, Slate, Vice, and Vox. Last August, the ostensibly pro-labor socialist magazine Current Affairs faced controversy and allegations of hypocrisy for “effectively firing” several employees for trying to organize a worker co-op within the magazine staff.