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LA Times faces backlash over layoffs that ‘decimated’ union groups of ‘overwhelmingly diverse reporters’

Caucuses designed to represent diversity in the newsroom will be "decimated" by the paper’s layoffs this week, according to the Los Angeles Times Guild.

Caucuses within the Los Angeles Times Guild designed to represent diverse communities within the newsroom will be "decimated" by the liberal paper’s decision to lay off at least 115 staffers this week, according to the Guild. 

"If these layoffs are allowed to go through, our caucuses will be decimated. The Latino Caucus will lose 38% of its members. The Black Caucus will lose 33% of members. The AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] and MENASA [Middle East, North Africa and South Asia] caucuses will lose 34% of their combined membership," Brian Contreras, a tech and artificial intelligence reporter, who was one of the impacted staffers, told Fox News Digital

Contreras is also the chair of the L.A. Times Guild Unit Council, which scolded the paper Wednesday following the "gutting" news that mass layoffs were underway, saying it "did not have to be this way." 

"This is in large part because the company refused to offer newsroom-wide voluntary buyouts before launching these layoffs, which could've incentivized more senior staff members -- who are disproportionately White -- to step up and take the place of younger staff members -- who are disproportionately [people of color] and more likely to get laid off," Contreras said. 

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Roughly 20% of the newsroom is expected to be shown the door. Contreras isn’t certain about the exact racial breakdown of the layoffs, aside from caucuses being severely impacted, but said the Guild is "looking into it."

A second former L.A. Times staffer who was impacted by the layoffs said it’s a possibility that "some diverse people" would have taken a voluntary buyout but feels management’s decision to implement mass layoffs significantly impacted minorities. 

"Just look at the list of names of the people who were laid off. I think you’ll find that they were overwhelmingly diverse reporters," they told Fox News Digital on the condition of anonymity.

Some L.A. Times employees who have announced they were laid off on social media include Lukas Kwan Peterson, Steven Vargas, Boris Kachka, Chelsea Hylton, Steve Saldivar, Christian Martinez, Jonah Valdez, Kenan Draughorne, Jared Serventez, Jeong Park, Jean Guerrero, Queenie Wong, Christian Orozco and Alejandra Molina. 

The Guild has long been fighting for seniority protections, and said the paper agreed that impacted staffers would have less seniority. However, the company is allowed to "skip" laying off a certain number of employees it deems critical, and the next people on the seniority list get laid off instead, a Guild source explained. 

"Management had been saying, ‘Well, if you make these sacrifices on the union contract in terms of seniority, we can save the diverse people,’ but if you look at the way the skips have been used, you’re allowed to skip a certain percentage of people in a layoff cluster," the anonymous former staffer said. "If you look at whose been laid off… those skips were not used to save diverse people. The skips led to minorities being laid off." 

The paper’s owner, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, called the layoffs "painful," but insisted they were necessary to thrive going forward after significant losses over the last few years. 

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The decision to lay off employees flies in the face of California Democrats, including Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who urged L.A. Times management to offer voluntary buyouts in place of layoffs in a letter sent to ownership and the union earlier this week. 

"We are concerned about reports of potential layoffs facing the LA Times newsroom and the impact this will have on all Angelenos, the availability of essential news and the strength of our democracy at large," Schiff and the other lawmakers wrote. 

Reps. Pete Aguilar, Brad Sherman, Jimmy Gomez, Judy Chu, Tony Cardenas, Ted Lieu, Nanette Barragan, Sydney Kamlager-Dove and Robert Garcia also signed the letter that begged the paper to implement voluntary buyouts to no avail. 

According to the Guild, the tentative layoff breakdown of impacted staffers is 14 assistant editors, three data and graphics journalists, two department administrators, four designers, 22 feature columnists/reporters, 19 news columnists/reporters, six sports columnists/reporters, six audience engagement multiplatform editors, nine photographers or photo editors, one recipe tester and eight video journalists. 

Contreras said the cuts will dramatically hurt the quality of the Los Angeles paper. 

"They are gutting our Washington bureau in an election year, and gutting new initiatives including our Latino-centric De Los vertical and our social media-savvy 404 team, which previously seemed like they could help the paper chart a path toward new readers and relevance," Contreras said, adding that "management still has the chance to accept any buyouts that staff who weren't laid off ask for." 

The Times has notified staffers that "employees not identified for layoffs shall be offered the opportunity to volunteer for layoff consistent with past practice and CBA" and if the paper accepts a volunteer for buyout, "the volunteer will receive enhanced severance and will replace the senior most person on the layoff list consistent with past practice and CBA."

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Contreras said it’s not clear what the next step for the embattled paper is. 

"Ownership has not articulated a clear vision for where the paper is headed or how these cuts are anything other than short-term savings at the expense of the paper's long-term vitality and relevance to readers. That should be concerning not just to our Guild, but to anyone who thinks readers in Southern California -- and beyond -- deserve robust and well-resourced accountability journalism," Contreras said. 

Prior to the headcount reduction, over 350 members of the Guild staged a one-day walkout last week following an announcement that the paper planned to lay off many of its journalists.

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The one-day strike was the Times’ first "union-organized work stoppage in the paper’s 142-year history," according to entertainment reporter Meg James, who also noted that anxiety was "widespread" in the newsroom. 

"The proposed layoffs will mark the third round of cuts since June, when more than 70 positions, or about 13% of the newsroom, were trimmed," James wrote. 

The anonymous former Times staffer agreed that employees have been on tilt for over a week. 

"Everyone was kind of just waiting around, wondering if their number was up," they told Fox News Digital. 

The Los Angeles Times did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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