United States

Washington Post Employees Stage Historic 24-Hour Strike Against Workforce Reductions And Contract Disputes

The Washington Post faces a historic 24-hour strike by hundreds of employees protesting workforce reductions amidst prolonged contract negotiations, reflecting escalating tensions over management decisions and financial challenges.

Washington Post Employees Stage Historic 24-Hour Strike

Hundreds of employees at The Washington Post plan to stage a 24-hour strike on Thursday in protest of recently announced workforce reductions. The aim is to exert pressure on management to come to terms on a new union contract.

In a letter to readers, The Washington Post Guild emphasized that the decision to take this historic action was not made lightly. “We take seriously the impact it will have on the people, issues and communities we cover," they added.

According to the union, staging a protest of this scale at The Post hasn't occurred since the 1970s. This underscores the level of frustration among members regarding the current state of affairs at the newspaper owned by Jeff Bezos.

Despite 18 months of negotiations between the union, representing approximately 1,000 employees at The Post, and executives for a new contract, no agreement has been reached. This has led to considerable frustration among members who express dissatisfaction with the management's handling of the process.

The Post's spokesperson stated in a release that the newspaper acknowledges and respects the right of its employees to engage in a strike.

“We will make sure our readers and customers are as unaffected as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The Post’s goal remains the same as it has from the start of our negotiations: to reach an agreement with the Guild that meets the needs of our employees and the needs of our business.”

Amid financial challenges, The Post is grappling with a labor dispute, anticipating a loss of around $100 million this year. In response, the management has taken steps to reduce costs, revealing in October its intention to achieve a 10% workforce reduction through voluntary buyouts.

Patty Stonesifer, serving as The Post's interim chief executive, informed employees during the buyout announcement that the company had exceeded its expenses and emphasized the need for management to "right size" the business.

"Instead of executives bearing the weight of this mismanagement, The Post repeatedly made workers pay the price," the union said.

In the preceding week, Stonesifer cautioned employees that if 240 individuals do not voluntarily opt for the buyout, layoffs would be inevitable. In a recent meeting, Stonesifer disclosed that, thus far, 175 employees have accepted the buyout offers before the impending deadline next week.

Employees at The Post have expressed resistance to the necessity of cuts, frequently highlighting that the newspaper is under the ownership of Bezos, one of the wealthiest people in the world. Bezos has emphasized his desire for The Post to achieve financial solvency.

Throughout the 24-hour work stoppage, The Guild has urged readers to refrain from reading or sharing The Post's editorial content.

“On Dec. 7, we ask you to respect our walkout by not crossing the picket line: For 24 hours, please do not engage with any Washington Post content,” the Guild said. “That includes our print and online news stories, podcasts, videos, games and recipes.”

At the same time, the management is striving to ensure the uninterrupted delivery of news to The Post's readers amid the strike. The newspaper is expected to depend on its editors, who are not part of the union, to write articles.

However, accomplishing this task doesn't appear to be easy. Leaders within the 24/7 global newsroom express concern about the strike as they strive to fill a homepage and print newspaper.

"We have nothing in the cupboard," one section head told staff in an email on Monday, as told to Washingtonian. "If there is a sentencing, a bill introduction, an appointment — anything that even whiffs of news – do it. I'm serious. We need to hoard."

The Post is not the sole news institution involved in a labor dispute with its employees. Unionized staff at Condé Nast have been demonstrating against layoffs at the publishing company. Additionally, in the previous year, employees at The New York Times organized a 24-hour strike as part of negotiations for a union contract.