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NY Daily News Staff Walk Out on Their Hedge Fund Owners: ‘The Bloodletting Has Got to Stop’

Fifty-four members of the paper walked off the job today for the first time in more than 30 years.

2:04 PM EST on January 25, 2024

Daily News Union members on the picket line in Midtown Manhattan.
(Daily New Union)

It's the kind of story you might come across in the pages of the New York Daily News: Workers at a 105-year-old New York City institution stage a walkout to protest mismanagement and the draining of resources from their workplace—most notably, a new policy severely limiting overtime payment. 

But today, the story is the Daily News, as the unionized staff of reporters, editors, and photo staffers are currently picketing under gray skies in front of the Midtown coworking space that the company's owners, investment firm Alden Global Capital, have substituted for the Lower Manhattan newsroom they closed in 2020. For the next 24 hours, almost all of the union members will not be working, and any stories published will simply be under a "New York Daily News" byline.

"We're chanting, we have Scabby the Rat, we have a lot of signs—it's raining, but everyone is still out here," Ellen Moynihan, a Metro reporter and unit chair for the Daily News Union, told Hell Gate. (They also, briefly, had Alec Baldwin.) 

For this action, Moynihan said, the message to management is simple: "Stop the cuts. The bloodletting has gotta stop, and we need to go back to our status quo on overtime policy."

The work stoppage even has a news hook—it's an action taking place against the backdrop of terrible journalism news across the country: Mass layoffs at the Los Angeles Times and TIME Magazine, the shuttering of Pitchfork, and another walkout/boycott orchestrated by the CondĂ© Nast Union just two days beforehand. The Daily News walkout—and the working conditions that preceded the action—has special resonance for New York media, and for New Yorkers in general. 

"The Daily News is a 100-plus year old institution. Gone are the times when this city had multitudes of newspapers," Moynihan said. "Right now, it's us, the Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Times, basically. You lose the Daily News, you lose a strong, important voice for working people." 

We spoke with Moynihan about which cuts hurt the Daily News the most and what happens when profit takes precedence over the ability to produce a newspaper.

A representative for Alden Global Capital declined to comment for this story.

How did your unit get to the point where a walkout felt necessary?

We've been whittled and whittled and whittled away. [Our unit] is 54 people covering a city of more than 8 million. We don't have a newsroom. We don't have a Metro editor, we haven't had one since August 2022, and we've been told we're not getting a Metro editor. Twenty-seven people have left since last spring, and only 16 people have been hired, and here's a new directive: Overtime is discouraged.

You're picketing outside a coworking space in Midtown today. What's the difference between somewhere like that and a designated newsroom?

Alden closed our newsroom during the pandemic and just never reopened it. A lot of us do have places we work out of, like City Hall or court, but a lot of us are just stuck working at home if we're not on the streets. That means they're saving, by not paying for a newsroom, but we're incurring operation costs. The community is gone—right now, the union is the only thing that is any semblance of community at the Daily News. Everything is Slack, email, phone calls...There's no in-person anything, and it's just demoralizing. And it's only because of greed! There's no practical reason not to have a newsroom.

What does the Daily News's new overtime policy look like, in practice, for a newspaper?

The status quo was: You do the job until the job is done. Now, purely in a bid to save money, they're trying to shave off anything they can, and the latest incarnation of that is the new overtime policy. We're being told, basically, no overtime, and if we do want to work overtime, we have to clear it with our manager first. Meaning, if we're in the middle of something—a verdict is coming down in court, a building has collapsed, there's been a cop shot, a source is calling from City Hall—we need to ask our managers first, to do overtime.

The latest, actually, is as of MLK Day and the days beforehand, we were told, "Most people shouldn't work holidays." In my eight years at this paper, I've never had holidays off. That's just not how news works! I had to use some paid time off to take off New Year's Day, but less than three weeks later, me and other people are being told to take the day off for MLK Day. And the reason why that is, is because they don't want to pay us double for working a holiday. 

This is all related to the new ownership—Alden Global Capital, an investment firm—right?

Right. They're not newspeople. We're newspeople. What they care about is money, period. And they're not listening to us and they should be listening to us—because not only is what they're doing bad for us, the workers, it's bad for the newspaper! You're charging more and more for a paper that's dwindling? How long until people—and I'm sure it's already happened—but how long until people just stop subscribing? Then what happens? Then the paper's making even less money, then they're making even more cuts. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

What's it been like negotiating with Alden?

We're bargaining with them [since 2021], and we have reached some tentative agreements—they're not stonewalling us, but they are acting like the union doesn't exist in other ways by pushing through policies without bargaining with us first. 

We have a union, that means that when management wants policy changes, they have to bargain with us. They're not doing that. They're acting like the union doesn't exist. So, we filed an unfair labor practice [with the National Labor Relations Board] in November, specifically about the overtime policy. 

We're in the process of bargaining over non-economic issues—we haven't even gotten to the economic issues. But I'll tell you one thing: The other Tribune newspapers, the Chicago Tribune, Hartford Courant, Allentown Morning Call, they unionized before us, and they all organized and bargained together as a joint group. When they asked Alden for raises, they were offered a bonus instead. So, that's what's coming—but not if we can help it. 

Why is the Daily News important to New York City's news ecosystem? What do New Yorkers lose out on with these kinds of cuts and when newsrooms like yours don't have resources? 

We tell stories of New Yorkers and beyond. People invite me into their homes on the worst days of their life, to tell me about a loved one that's been killed or a tragedy that's happened or an injustice they've suffered. They trust me, they trust us, to tell their stories in a way that other newspapers don't, and that will be lost if the Daily News continues to dwindle.

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