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New York Times Tech Staff to Vote on Unionizing

New York Times Co. tech workers will vote on joining a union starting this month, a U.S. labor official ordered Wednesday. 

Ballots will be mailed to employees Jan. 24 and be due back by Feb. 14, a regional director of the National Labor Relations Board ruled. Around 566 employees, including engineers, analysts, designers and project managers working on the Times’ websites and apps, are eligible to vote on whether to join the Communications Workers of America’s NewsGuild.

Times management has argued for a much smaller election, saying the tech workers’ skills, functions and working conditions are too diverse to be all included in the same bargaining unit. But the NLRB agreed with the union that the workers have a common “community of interest.”

The engineers are part of the team and they are the product builders who take the ideas of the team designers and bring those product ideas to life through writing specialized code, the regional NLRB official wrote.

The agency also concluded the employees have common supervision, similar benefits, “are subject to the same policies, are functionally integrated” and have frequent contact in the workplace.

Times management signaled that it has no plans to appeal, even though the company disagrees with the ruling.

We will focus on the election and ensuring our colleagues who will be eligible for the potential unit have all the information they need to make an informed choice, spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said via email. We continue to believe that the company and our digital product development and tech colleagues will accomplish our shared goals faster and more effectively by working together directly, without a union.

Any appeal would be considered by NLRB members in Washington, where Democrats hold a majority following President Joe Biden’s appointments.

CWA currently represents 1,300 editorial and business employees at the Times, and has been part of a wave of recent organizing in the tech and media industries, including recently securing collective bargaining rights at Politico and petitioning to represent retail staff at one of Alphabet Inc.’s Google Fiber stores.

We are thrilled that the NLRB found that we are one union, and are proud to be setting a precedent for our fellow tech workers across the industry, Times software engineer and guild organizing committee member Nozlee Samadzadeh said in an emailed statement. 

The union and the company are also slated to square off at an NLRB trial in March regarding a complaint issued by labor board prosecutors. They accused the Times of illegally interfering with the tech workers’ organizing efforts.

The union alleged in that case that Times management wrongly ordered a group of tech employees to stop using pro-union avatars and backgrounds in online services like Slack and Google Meet, claiming they were legally supervisors because of their responsibilities for interns. The company has denied wrongdoing.

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