New York Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger’s memo to staff:
Today, the Company and the Guild have agreed to mediation in order to maximize the potential of reaching a new collective bargaining agreement.
We remain committed to reaching a fair contract settlement with the Guild. It is our hope that this settlement comes soon so that we can all return our complete focus to producing the highest quality journalism that readers of The New York Times have come to expect from us.
Here’s note that Timesman Walt Baranger to the news staff before the two sides agreed to mediation:
Be in no doubt: Arthur has authored this strategy, he holds the Guild in low esteem and he has not forgotten the dreadful but mercifully short 1978 strike.
Of course being a hard-nosed businessman is not a criminal act, nor does it preclude Arthur from seeking an amicable solution should the opportunity present itself. But don’t think for one minute to he will abrogate his responsibility — as he sees it — to the family or shareholders. He allegiance lies there, as it should.
We are not in impasse at this moment, and we still have a valid contract in force. Perhaps our Monday action precipitated the break in negotiations a few weeks earlier than might otherwise have been the case, but it hasn’t made Arthur any more or less determined.
As long as we take carefully measured steps that do not put us in breech of contract, the onus will be be on the company to declare a legal impasse. Until then, we work as if nothing has happened. If we coincidentally take lunch breaks together, so much the better. And of course what we do on our own time is our own business.
With a dual contract proposal on the table, our goal should be to not allow the company the drive a wedge between the print contract and digital contract members. This means making sure that digital and print contract members talk to each other, compare goals and resolve to not approve one contract without approving the other, if a vote comes.
We should also not give the company any ammunition that it can use in court to defend an impasse declaration. Bill O’Meara and Guild team have worked very hard to keep their relations with management civilized and within the bounds of good labor relations. The bellicose attitude of certain management negotiators has been puzzling, until now.
It’s premature to talk about actions to take if the company declares an impasse and posts working conditions, but surely the company knows that events can spiral out of control and that both parties can easily forget where their best interests lie. Let us hope that it doesn’t come to that.
— walt baranger