Village Voice Staffers Protest New Contract Proposal

Village Voice Protest

Village Voice protest (Esti Jungreis)

The Village Voice unionized staffers staged a walkout and demonstration this afternoon as the union and management negotiate a new contract before the July 1 deadline. Eden Schulz, the secretary-treasurer at UAW 2110, the union that represents Voice staffers, said that staffers are prepared to go on strike.

Voice employees in orange shirts chanted and held signs during the hour-long lunchtime demonstration outside of their lower Manhattan office. “I haven’t worked there as long as some of the other people have but it’s definitely a shitty place to work,” a Village Voice employee told the Observer.

“Our demands this time around are very, very simple: better pay, better working conditions, particularly for our overburdened sales staff, and to keep our healthcare coverage,” the Village Voice bargaining unit wrote in a press release that went out shortly before the walkout. “We also want better coffee. Our coffee is shit.”

According to the press release, Voice management has countered the staffers demands with a proposal that would raise salaries by $10 a week, raise healthcare costs, cut severance packages for senior employees, cut family leave and make it easier to fire employees.

“Basically what they are doing with this new contract is trying to take away healthcare and job security. They’re asking for them to contribute 48 percent,” Ms. Schulz said. “The average salary is around $45,000, so that ends up being $700 a month.”

Pro-union flyers that were posted in the conference room were removed and the room is now locked, according to the Village Voice bargaining unit.

Today’s walkout is the latest in a series of problems at the historic downtown alt-weekly. In 2005, a Phoenix based company then called New Times Media bought the newspaper. The company later became the Voice Media Group after its online adult classifieds site, Backpage.com, which had been a crucial source of revenue for the company resulted in legal and political drama.

Since then, there have been multiple rounds of layoffs. In 2013, the editor in chief Will Bourne and deputy editor Jessica Lustig resigned rather than lay off more staffers as management requested. But despite the resignations, three longtime writers were let go shortly after. Last summer, Tom Finkel replaced Mr. Bourne in the top spot.

Negotiations resumed after the demonstration ended:

Voice management didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Additional reporting by Esti Jungreis