While an optional, 15-minute walkout at The New York Times might seem pretty polite as labor actions go, it is the biggest step the Times newsroom has taken at showing their displeasure with the progress of contract negotiations on wages and benefits. "This is not a job action," reads the email from the Times Newspaper Guild chairman Grant Glickson. "We want you to participate if you have flexibility in your work schedule that permits a 10 or 15 minute break at 3:35." There's no stridency that grabs the attention of national news or a protest that would might affect your favorite gadget. But then again Times employees are not known for being a flashy bunch. And yet, the continuing contract talks seem to be pushing the newsroom union into a more aggressive position. Last December, nerves were frayed when the details of Arthur Sulzberger Jr.'s pricey buyout of former CEO Janet Robinson's contract came to light.
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That gave rise to another polite-but-aggressive action in February when half of the Times newsroom gathered outside the conference room where the paper's Page One meeting is held. Since then the paper has been mired in more contract talks, which came to another inevitable stall last month—this time over the paper's plan to freeze pension plans. The union's e-mail says negotiations are due to resume on Tuesday morning.