Unionized Los Angeles Times staffers are launching a one-day strike Friday — the first walkout in the newspaper’s 142-year history — in response to imminent “significant” layoffs.
The Los Angeles Times Guild, which represents roughly 400 editorial employees, called for the walkout after management announced cuts Thursday that could whack as much as 20% of the 500-person newsroom, the LA Times reported.
“The management of the Los Angeles Times has announced that it intends to imminently lay off a significant number of journalists, and is asking the Guild to gut seniority protections in our union contract so they have vastly more freedom to pick whom to lay off,” the Times Guild said in a statement about the strike.
“This will greatly damage our ability to provide the accountability journalism so important to Southern California.”
The walkout comes at a turbulent time for the storied newspaper. Two weeks ago, the paper’s executive editor Kevin Merida resigned over billionaire owner Patrick Soon-Shiong’s alleged editorial interference, among other issues, the Wrap reported.
The paper had cut 74 newsroom staffers in June 2023 due in part to advertising declines as it loses a reported $50 million a year.
LA Times management has not announced the scope of this latest round of layoffs, though the union fears the majority of the 100 journalists expected to be fired will come from their ranks.
Media Guild of the West president Matt Pearce told fellow colleagues in an email Thursday, “This is the big one,” as he convened an emergency meeting that day.
A spokesperson for the paper said in a statement to the LA Times on Thursday that the planned cuts are the result of a need “to reduce our operating budget going into this year.”
“The hardest decisions to make are those that impact our employees, and we do not come to any such decisions lightly,” the rep added. “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.”
Friday’s walkout will see LA Times employees across the country go on strike amid the union’s demands for management to provide a headcount or salary reduction they’re aiming for, as well as buyouts to take place that can be credited against the layoff total.
The union also wants top brass to hold an all-hands town hall meeting to “articulate a clear road map for revenue growth and not just cost reductions,” as well as ownership to create a search and selection committee that would include Guild reps for the next executive editor.
A 20% reduction would be “the largest staff cut since the paper was owned by Tribune Co.,” the paper reported.
Soon-Shiong, a health care billionaire, bought the LA Times from Tribune, which had changed its name to Tronc, for $500 million in 2018.