The Washington Post braces for historic 24-hour strike as journalists protest staff cuts and contract frustrations

A man walks through the newsroom in the Washington Post's new building March 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. A view of the Washington Post's new building March 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.

A man walks through the newsroom in the Washington Post’s new building March 3, 2016 in Washington, DC. A view of the Washington Post’s new building March 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty ImagesCNN — 

Hundreds of staffers at The Washington Post are set to strike for 24 hours on Thursday, protesting recently announced cuts to the newspaper’s workforce and applying pressure on management to reach an agreement on a new union contract.

“Taking this historic action is not a decision we came to lightly,” The Washington Post Guild said in a letter to readers. “We take seriously the impact it will have on the people, issues and communities we cover.”

A protest of such magnitude has not been staged at The Post since the 1970s, according to the union, signaling how frustrated members are with the state of affairs at the Jeff Bezos-owned newspaper.

The union, which represents roughly 1,000 employees at The Post, has been negotiating a new contract with executives for 18 months, but it has yet to arrive at an agreement, much to the dismay of members who have expressed significant frustration with management over the process.

A spokesperson for The Post said in a statement that the newspaper respects the right of its employees to strike.

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“We will make sure our readers and customers are as unaffected as possible,” the spokesperson said. “The Post’s goal remains the same as it has from the start of our negotiations: to reach an agreement with the Guild that meets the needs of our employees and the needs of our business.”

The labor dispute comes as The Post struggles financially, with the paper on track to lose approximately $100 million this year. To that end, The Post’s management team has moved to cut costs, announcing in October that it aims to slash its workforce by 10% through voluntary buyouts.

Patty Stonesifer, The Post’s interim chief executive, disclosed to employees when announcing the buyouts that the company had “overshot on expenses” and that management needed to “right size” the business.

Last week, Stonesifer warned employees that if 240 people do not volunteer for the buyout offer, layoffs would ensue. Stonesifer said in a meeting this week that 175 employees had so far taken the buyout offers ahead of next week’s deadline.

Staffers at The Post have balked at the need for cuts, often pointing out that the newspaper is owned by Bezos, one of the richest men in the world. Bezos has stressed that he wants The Post to be financially solvent.

During the 24-hour work stoppage, The Guild has encouraged readers to avoid reading or sharing The Post’s editorial content.

“On Dec. 7, we ask you to respect our walkout by not crossing the picket line: For 24 hours, please do not engage with any Washington Post content,” the Guild said. “That includes our print and online news stories, podcasts, videos, games and recipes.”

Meanwhile, management is working to ensure that The Post continues to deliver news to its readers during the strike. The newspaper will likely rely on its editors, who are not members of the union, to author stories.

The Post is far from the only news institution engaged in a labor dispute with its employees. Unionized staffers at Condé Nast have been protesting layoffs at the publishing company.

And last year, staffers at The New York Times staged their own 24-hour strike while negotiating for a union contract.

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