Fighting Racism at the New York Times

Morgan Jin

from East Wind Vol. 1 No. 1 1982

Sasha Hohri

When asked about the status of Third World people at the New York Times a year and a half after a favorable settlement of their affirmative action suit, Morgan Jin declared, "We've only just scratched the Times, but we are here to stay!" The settlement, unprecedented in the newspaper industry, includes affirmative action in recruitment, testing, hiring, training, promotions, assignments, scheduling, personnel records, scholarships, and tuition reimbursements.

The $1.5 million settlement includes stipulations that the New York Times would make payments totaling $285,000 to 75 persons named as witnesses in the settlement. In addition, a $400,000 payment is to be made to the Minority Caucus Affirmative Action Grant Fund of the Newspaper Guild, which organized the class action suit. After eight years, an out-of-court settlement was reached on the eve of the court trial as the New York Times clearly settled to void public exposure of its racist practices.

 

Jin, a circulation manager, initiated the suit against the New York Times in 1973 when he learned he was to be laid off, rather than be promoted. He consistently fought the racism of the New York Times and rallied with other Third World people to form the Minority Caucus of the New York Times. In 1975, at an annual stockholders' meeting, he laid out his case of the New York Times' discrimination: "There is an old Chinese proverb, 'The press is an un-crowned king.' Because of this, it has a very heavy social responsibility and obligation. The New York Times was a leader in the passage of the Civil Rights laws, and therefore it is not just for the Times to say it is an equal opportunity employer in all of its ads, when it has on its staff hundreds of Blacks and other minority groups pushing mops and brooms, and then proclaim to the world that its responsibility is being fulfilled. It must include in its hiring minorities and give promotive opportunities so they can develop and become professionals in their areas of interests, and at the same time, be able to realize the 'great American dream.'

We people of color also have goals to fulfill, dreams to realize, and challenges to meet and conquer, not just being under-utilized. The present pattern must stop."

The unprecedented settlement reached in September 1980 spurred others to organize in the newspaper industry. Third World employees of the New York Daily News have filed an $8 million discrimination suit against The New York Daily News.

But the entrenched racist practices of the New York Times are continuing. Today, among the 4,000 Times' employees, there are less than 25 Asians, but over 400 Blacks, still mostly working in janitorial positions. At the highest levels, there is one Black vice-president, but even he is on the lowest level of vice-presidents. Of the 45 sports reporters, there is only one Black person. Jin cited case after case of talented Third World people being passed over, becoming frustrated and leaving the New York Times for other news agencies.

Jin sees himself as fighting the New York Times not only for himself, but for generations to come. It is with persistence and the will to fight that he continues to confront the New York Times for their foot-dragging on implementing the 1980 settlement. As Mr. Jin emphasized, "We can't let the scratches heal so easily. We must continue to fight."

 


Contributing Editor Sasha Hohri is a member of the Concerned Japanese Americans and the former co-chair of the East Coast Japanese Americans for Redress. She is also a member of Thousand Cranes, an art group in New York City.