by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The New York Times, which has argued in recent years that corporate stock buybacks should be illegal, announced last week that it will purchase $250 million of its own shares, the latest instance of the Gray Lady’s left-wing editorial board positions being at odds with its business decisions.
The Times stock repurchasing program—which is when a corporation buys shares of its own stock in order to lower the supply of available stock and boost the price—is being financed in part with higher-than-expected profits and an 11 percent increase in revenue from 2021, according to the Gray Lady’s Feb. 8 announcement. Following the buyback announcement, the company’s stock spiked by 12 percent.
But stock repurchasing programs are part of the reason “American workers have suffered a devastating loss of economic power, manifest in their wages, benefits, and working conditions,” according to a June 2020 Times editorial. Stopping this trend, the paper wrote, necessitates “reversing the legalization of share buybacks.” Critics like the Times editorial board say stock buybacks, which were legalized in 1982, come at the expense of companies investing in workers.
The announcement of the stock buyback could be another point of controversy at a workplace already rife with internal conflict. The Times union and management are currently engaged in tense contract negotiations, which last December prompted the first strike at the paper in more than 40 years. Staff at the paper blasted their employer for a “wage proposal [that] still fails to meet the economic moment, lagging far behind both inflation and the average rate of wage gains in the U.S.”
Profits at the Times have soared nearly 50 percent since 2016, from $240.9 million to nearly $350 million in 2022. Those figures, the union argues, should warrant significant wage hikes.