Nearly 600 tech workers at the New York Times have officially unionized, forming the largest tech-worker union in the United States. The results of a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election were tallied last week, with the spread 404 in favor, 88 against. The workers join the NewsGuild of New York — which, as the country’s largest journalism union, also represents Jacobin — and can begin negotiating a first contract.
While many New York Times employees are already NewsGuild members, that didn’t stop the paper’s management from waging an anti-union campaign. As the Guardian reported, Meredith Kopit Levien, the chief executive of the New York Times Company, wrote a memo circulated to staff in January titled “Why a Tech Union Isn’t Right for Us.” Kopit Levien’s message? “In short, we don’t believe unionizing in XFun [the group responsible for product development operations] is the right move. But that’s not because I’m anti-union.”
It’s a familiar line at this point. With support for unions as high as it’s been in decades, bosses at putatively liberal institutions cannot outright admit that they’re anti-union. Instead, they emphasize that their problem is with this union in particular. The only notable thing about Kopit Levien’s argument is that it was tried at a workplace that’s already largely unionized.
My own writing was conscripted by Times management to stress how long it can take workers to win a first contract. No matter that the piece in question highlights NewsGuild bargaining units as a model of effective unionism that can counter management stalling at the bargaining table; the Times’ goal was to convince workers that their efforts would be futile and nothing can ever get better. Management even cited its own years-long intransigence during negotiations with another group of Times workers, those at Wirecutter, to drive home the message. Fortunately, given the 82 percent yes vote, such fearmongering fell on deaf ears.
No surprise there. The NewsGuild has about as strong a record as any union in the United States right now when it comes to winning elections. In 2021, it added 2,128 new members, setting a new annual organizing record for the union. The Times Tech Guild win amounts to a roughly 10 percent increase in membership for the New York local.
Why would tech workers unionize? Members of the Times Tech Guild say their issues are similar to those of the paper’s journalists. In an interview with, well, the New York Times, Nozlee Samadzadeh, a senior software engineer, named “pay, diversity and equity, a strong contract to make our workplace more fair” as priorities.
Samadzadeh professed a belief that “this is going to be the start of a wave of organizing in the tech industry.” For those who track these things, that seems likely: agitation in the industry spread exponentially during the Donald Trump administration, and it has hardly let up. To name but the most high-profile example, organizing continues at Google. While a Google tech job sounds about as cushy as it gets, the majority of the company’s workforce now are temps, an insecure arrangement guaranteed to leave workers desiring change. With the Times Tech Guild’s win, such workers and their counterparts across the sector have one more model of how to achieve it.