Washington Post staffers stage 24-hour walkout over contract negotiations

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9th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) More than 700 employees at The Washington Post went on a 24-hour walkout on Thursday after contract negotiations with the newspaper’s leadership reached an impasse after 18 months.

Reporters, producers, editors, and business-side staff walked off the job and began picketing outside the Post’s iconic downtown headquarters, marking the first protest action at the paper since the mid-1970s.

The Washington Post Guild, a member of the broader Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild, has accused management of negotiating in “bad faith,” claiming that the contract must address pay disparities and provide raises and job protections as the struggling paper faces potential layoffs.

In an online statement, the union expressed dissatisfaction, stating, “We still lack a contract that keeps pace with record-level inflation and guarantees workers a living wage,” while assigning blame to previous leadership at the Post for the company’s current financial challenges.

Responding to the strike, a spokesperson for the Post told POLITICO, “We respect the rights of our Guild-covered colleagues to engage in this planned one-day strike,” and assured readers and customers that efforts would be made to minimize the impact on them.

“Our goal remains the same: to reach an agreement with the Guild that meets the needs of our employees and the needs of our business,” the spokesperson added.

In a video released prior to the walkout, Post employees urged the public to support their cause by not crossing the picket line. They requested that readers refrain from accessing content on the Post’s website and asked freelancers to reject assignment offers.

The walkout comes as Post leadership grapples with a $100 million shortfall and considers options such as buyouts or potential layoffs to bridge the gap. Incoming CEO Will Lewis, a Dow Jones veteran, has been entrusted with reversing the declining readerships and subscriptions while managing rising costs.

According to the Guild, the Post has laid off nearly 40 employees over the past year. In October, acting CEO Patty Stonesifer announced that the Post would offer 240 voluntary buyouts to employees; however, only 120 employees have taken advantage of the offer thus far. Stonesifer also indicated that “involuntary buyouts” may be considered if the buyout target is not met.

This strike action follows similar incidents at other major news outlets in the past year. Employees at digital outlet Insider staged a 13-day walkout in June, which marked the longest strike in the history of digital media.