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New York Times Illegally Curbed Labor Activism, U.S. Alleges

The New York Times Co. illegally restricted employees’ union activism, federal labor officials alleged in a complaint that accuses the company of interfering with tech workers’ organizing efforts.

The newspaper publisher “has been interfering with, restraining and coercing employees in the exercise of the rights guaranteed” under federal workplace law, an acting regional director of the National Labor Relations Board wrote on Dec. 29. Management did so by telling employees designated as “intern managers” that they were prohibited from demonstrating support for the union, according to the complaint.

The complaint is slated to be considered at a March trial. It stems from claims brought last June by the Communications Workers of America’s NewsGuild, which represents editorial and business employees at the Times and last year announced a campaign to unionize tech workers such as software engineers and product managers.

The union alleges Times management ordered a group of tech employees to stop using pro-union avatars and backgrounds in online services like Slack and Google Meet, wrongly claiming they were legally supervisors because of their responsibilities for interns.

Read more: New York Times made staff nix pro-union images, Guild says

“We strongly disagree with the union’s allegations about the supervisory status of certain technology employees and welcome the opportunity to explain our position to the board,” Times spokesperson Danielle Rhoades Ha said in an emailed statement.

Last year, the company said it had told employees who “hire, supervise and assess” interns “that while in this supervisory position they would need to act in a manner that is consistent with a management role.”

Complaints issued by labor board prosecutors are considered by administrative law judges, whose rulings can be appealed to NLRB members in Washington and from there to federal court. The agency can order companies to change policies that conflict with the law, but lacks authority to issue punitive damages for violations.

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