Angry WASHPOST Staffers Told to Sit Down, Shut Up, and Be Grateful for Bezos

The narrative casting Jeff Bezos as a transformative media baron reached new heights in 2017. His Washington Post consistently set the political agenda while claiming two straight years of profitability. Bezos himself glowed on the red carpet as an improbable journalism hero when Steven Spielberg’s The Post, a fictionalized account of the newspaper’s publication of The Pentagon Papers, opened in December.
Bezos is worth $111 billion. He is the richest man in the world. But over the past eight months, his prized media outlet has repeatedly stymied requests for better pay and benefits from the employees who’ve driven its renaissance. The paper’s union, the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild, remains locked in a tense contract dispute, union reps told Splinter, with management ceding little ground in negotiations over annual raises, improved retirement plans, and other workplace protections. Hanging over the talks is the question of how to pressure an owner whose purchase of the newspaper is widely credited for pulling it back from the brink.
“Many of the employees see Jeff Bezos as a savior to the company,” David DeJesus, a longtime advertising staffer who co-chairs the Post’s bargaining unit of about 880 editorial and business-side employees, told Splinter. “People are a little bit hesitant to be openly critical of him because of it.”
Management used that leverage to some effect in the last union contract, struck in 2015, which slashed retirement benefits but maintained across-the-board annual salary increases. But union memos to members shared with Splinter suggest the company is taking a harder line this time around, a more aggressive stance they attribute to Bezos’ ownership (the Amazon founder purchased the paper in 2013). His star power makes for an effective political cudgel as management, negotiating on his behalf, seeks more leeway to fire staffers at will and cut severance pay in a new two-year deal with the guild.

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