Home » L.A. Times Staffers to Walk Off Job to Protest Imminent Layoffs

L.A. Times Staffers to Walk Off Job to Protest Imminent Layoffs

The Los Angeles Times union plans to walk off the job for a day on Friday to protest its paper’s plans to enact another round of layoffs, it announced Thursday night.

“The changes to our contract that management is trying to pressure us into accepting are obscene and unsustainable,” Brian Contreras, chair of the guild’s unit council, said in a statement. “If this newsroom will ever be a place where reporters can have a reliable, steady job and put down roots in Los Angeles, that will only happen through the preservation of our seniority protections.”

The Times said it was “disappointed” in the guild’s decision but it respected its right to strike.

“The Los Angeles Times has not missed a day of publishing in 142 years and we will be publishing tomorrow,” a spokesperson wrote in a statement.

The company’s plans for layoffs were revealed by the guild’s bargaining committee in a note to members on Wednesday, half a year after the company shed 13 percent of its staff and weeks after its executive editor resigned.

“The company has told us it intends to imminently execute another major round of layoffs at the L.A. Times and has asked the Guild to gut seniority protections in our contract so they have vastly more freedom to pick who they want to lay off,” the committee wrote in a note to staffers, according to The Washington Post.

In exchange, the guild wrote, the company would provide some buyouts and reduce the number of cut guild staffers by 50. The guild held an emergency meeting for Thursday afternoon, noting that off-the-record bargaining sessions prevented them from disclosing how many people the company would let go. “But folks: This is the Big One.”

In an earlier statement on Thursday, the company confirmed it planned to lay staffers off, but it would not disclose how many or when the layoffs would take effect.

“The hardest decisions to make are those that impact our employees, and we do not come to any such decisions lightly,” a Times spokesperson wrote. “We are continuing to review the revenue projections for this year and taking a very careful look at expenses and what our organization can support.”

According to a report in the Times itself, however, the company planned to lay off at least 100 people in this wave, a move that former executive editor Kevin Merida felt would stymie the paper’s journalism. Merida announced his resignation on Jan. 9.

Drama has plagued the paper since last summer’s layoffs, which saw 73 people across various Times desks leave the paper. “It’s terrible. I feel awful about it but when you’re a leader you have moments like this,” then-executive editor Merida told staffers following the layoffs, according to the L.A. Times. “We’ll be losing a lot of very valuable people and that’s just really hard to take. It’s hard for me, too.”

Merida left the paper earlier this month, with an announcement by owner Patrick Soon-Shiong noting he and Merida “mutually agreed that his role as executive editor of the L.A. Times will conclude this week.” According to The Wrap, tensions between Merida and Soon-Shiong reached a boiling point last month when the owner reportedly challenged a newsroom decision. (The L.A. Times disputed the fact with The Wrap.)

The L.A. Times news comes at the tail end of a wave of layoffs across the media industry. Condé Nast announced a round of cuts at Pitchfork on Wednesday, saying it planned to absorb the online magazine into GQ. That followed cuts across its various brands last month, resulting in the loss of 270 workers across verticals such as WIRED and The New Yorker. Those layoffs came as other media brands like Vox Media, The Washington Post, and The Messenger saw staff exits, due in part to declining advertising revenue and audiences’ shifting news consumption habits.

In a letter to staffers on Thursday, newsroom leaders acknowledged “how tough” the news of layoffs was and said they were committed to honoring its achievements in diversity from recent years.

“We believe our shared goals are to preserve as many jobs as possible and maintain areas of coverage that better represent the communities we serve and that our readers have shown us are vital to the business,” the note read.


January 2024