On Tuesday you may notice new Facebook and Twitter avatars on Washington Post employees’ profiles. They’re a sign of a day of “social media action” organized by the Post‘s Guild, or union, which is eight months into negotiations with Post management over a new contract. The next negotiation session is planned for Wednesday, and the Guild hopes the display will show it has support within the building.
“It’s a pretty modest action with modest goals,” says Jenny Rogers, assistant editor for Outlook and PostEverything and the Guild’s vice chair of news. In a note sent to Post employees with the subject line “TOMORROW: WaPo Union needs your help,” the Guild says management “is digging in its heels on key issues, like fair pay raises, a better 401(k) match, and longer maternity leave.” It asks Posties to send messages with the hashtag #WaPoStrong and if they are so inclined link to a webpage outlining the Guild’s position. The union’s requests “are reasonable,” Rogers says. “We want to see people in this place get a raise after working their tails off.” There will be buttons available for those who want to wear them at Rogers’ desk and two other locations.
New hires at the Post aren’t eligible for pensions, the Guild says in its note, and the company, which is owned by Amazon honcho Jeff Bezos, offers only a 1 percent match on 401(k) accounts. “We want our benefits to keep pace with our competitors’,” Rogers says. “I want people here to be happy and for the Post to keep attracting the best reporters, the best sales folks.”
Bezos is historically hostile to unions, and management has played hardball so far. The company, meanwhile, says it’s profitable. The Washington Post PR department declined to comment on the negotiations. “It’s in everyone’s interests to get a good contract in place,” Rogers says. “If some tweets can help with that, then I’ll be thrilled.”