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Today Is A Good Day To Not Read Wirecutter

Daniel Slim/AFP via Getty Images

Today is Black Friday, which means that you may very well be sitting in your home thinking, "Oh, crud, I need to buy some Christmas gifts!" Perhaps you have previously gone about solving this problem by going to Wirecutter, a section of The New York Times that provides readers with product reviews and recommendations, and purchased a bunch of items that the site gathered into various lists of Black Friday deals. Do not do that this year!

In case you haven't heard, a large chunk of Wirecutter staffers are currently on strike. This is because the site's bargaining unit, about 65 editorial employees, have been trying and failing to negotiate their first collective bargaining agreement with Times management for nearly two years. Fed up with how the Times has continued to slow-play the already glacial negotiations, the Wirecutter bargaining unit recently delivered an ultimatum to management: Either get a deal done with us by Black Friday, or we will walk out. The Times responded by refusing to even sit down for a negotiation before Black Friday, and so now all members of the Wirecutter union are on strike through Monday.

The timing of the strike was well-considered. Wirecutter, like many sites that have an e-commerce business, earns revenue through affiliate links. What this means is that if you read an article on Wirecutter listing the 21 Best Toasters For Divorced Dads, and then click the link on Toaster No. 7 and purchase it from Amazon, Wirecutter gets a cut of that sale. You can imagine that the Black Friday through Cyber Monday stretch is a particularly lucrative time for a site with this sort of business model, and one in which having 65 people not working could cause some real harm to the bottom line.

Exactly how much harm can be caused, and thus how much leverage can be gained, by the striking workers remains to be seen. I spoke to a member of the Wirecutter bargaining unit last week, who told me that the unit expected Wirecutter to go on publishing throughout the strike. That appears to be happening now.

I was told that much of the work that would normally be done by members of the union would be taken up by management-level editorial employees and freelancers, who are not in the union. Earlier this week, I reached out to Wirecutter Editor-in-Chief Ben Frumin and asked if he could confirm that the site would be using middle managers and freelancers in order to go on publishing as normal through Cyber Monday. I also asked him if he personally would be working through the strike, and if he cared to explain why or why not. He did not answer several requests for comment.

The worst thing that could happen for the members of the Wirecutter union, who are making relatively mild demands of management, would be for the site to hum along and earn as much money as it normally does over the next four days. A strike only works if it hurts management nearly as much as it does the striking workforce. If the strikers' non-unionized colleagues aren't going to make sure that happens, then the responsibility falls onto you, the consumer. Don't click on any Wirecutter links this weekend. Don't buy any of the junk the site recommends. Make sure the right people get hurt.

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