The New York Daily News on Friday appeared to stiff its journalists out of a modest bonus it had promised them for their hard work during the pandemic.
The New York-metropolitan area newspaper successfully delivered on its pledged bonuses to management before announcing that it would be holding back bonuses for everyone else — citing staffers’ efforts to unionize. It’s just the latest slight to the editorial employees who suffered a permanent closing of their newsroom last year.
The one-time bonuses were first dangled in front of staffers on Jan. 27 by parent company Tribune Publishing, which had promised the one-time payments to all non-unionized employees across its empire by March 26.
Instead, Daily News editor-in-chief Robert York on Friday announced that his non-management journalists would not be getting paid right now — thanks to their efforts to join the NewsGuild of New York, a process that has yet to be completed.
Citing the “overlapping time frames” of the union organizing and the bonuses, York said in an email Friday that the bonuses were being held to “avoid any appearance of an attempt to use the bonuses to somehow influence the election process.”
If staffers agreed to unionize, the company would “meet with the Guild at its request to discuss bonus payments,” it said. If staffers reject the union, the company will “address bonus payments directly with employees,” York said.
When Tribune CEO Terry Jimenez initially promised a “modest lump sum bonus to our non-union employees on or about March 26,” he said, “any bonus for union-represented employees would be subject to collective bargaining.”
Many of Tribune’s nine papers are represented by various chapters of the NewsGuild, including the Hartford Courant and the Chicago Tribune. But not the Daily News — at least not yet.
In early February, more than 80 percent of Daily News editorial staffers turned in cards saying they wanted to be represented by the Guild. Tribune declined to recognize the union, however, and requested a vote supervised by the National Labor Relations Board. The ballots, which have been mailed, must be returned by April 9.
The Guild, which won’t be formally certified as the bargaining agent for the Daily News until after the votes are counted, has blasted the move as “union-busting.”
“It’s a ridiculous, union-busting tactic and claim and incredibly disrespectful to the workers,” said a spokesman for the Guild. “Our members deserve the raise they were promised.”
“Tribune Publishing won’t recognize our union, but it also won’t pay us the bonuses it promised to ‘non-union’ employees — and the company is using the union election process it forced us into as an excuse to not give us those checks,” the spokesman said.
A Tribune spokesman declined to comment.
Tribune shocked the media world and New Yorkers in 2018 when it announced it would slash the Daily News’ newsroom staff by 50 percent, effective immediately. The pandemic has resulted in even more cutbacks, including furloughs and pay cuts.
In August, staffers were told they would never work in a newsroom again as the company worked to permanently close the paper’s physical newsroom at 4 New York Plaza in downtown Manhattan.