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Nov. 8, 2021, 2:51 p.m.
LINK:  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   November 8, 2021

The members of Wirecutter’s union are preparing to strike during Black Friday weekend if The New York Times management can’t reach an agreement with them to negotiate a “fair contract,” including higher salaries, the union announced Monday. (This coincided nicely with Times media columnist Ben Smith’s Monday column about how labor has become a “hot news beat.”) They’re also asking Wirecutter readers and supporters not to shop via the site that weekend if an agreement isn’t reached.

The news was first reported by Bloomberg.

The New York Times put The Wirecutter behind its paywall in August. It’s $5 a month or $40 a year — the same as other Times standalone products like Cooking and Games — and continues to be included with Times all-access digital subscriptions, but not basic digital subscriptions. In her comments around the Times’ most recent earnings report, New York Times CEO Meredith Kopit Levien noted that paywalling Wirecutter content was “off to a promising start, especially among existing Times subscribers, with 10,000 net subscriptions in the first month.”

In their letter to Times management, Wirecutter’s union wrote, in part:

Despite the fact that our work now regularly appears on The New York Times’ homepage — side by side with the work of our colleagues in the newsroom — the median salary of Wirecutter Union employees is $43,000 less than that of the Times-Guild members. We’ve demonstrated at the table that our starting salaries are lower than those at comparable publications often cited as being our direct competitors. And over recent months, we’ve lost too many colleagues who’ve cited low pay as being one of their top grievances.

“We look forward to continuing to work toward an agreement with the Wirecutter Union in our standard process at the negotiating table,” New York Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha told Nieman Lab. “Our compensation proposal is more generous than what they’ve described and seeks to maintain a similar compensation structure for Wirecutter employees with programs in place for others at The Times Company.”

The New York Times doesn’t break down the affiliate revenue it earns from Wirecutter over Black Friday or any other time, but noted in its earning results for the fourth quarter of 2020 — which included shopping over Black Friday and Cyber Monday — that declines in the “other” revenue category “were partially offset by an increase in Wirecutter affiliate referral revenue.”

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