Black, Hispanic and Asian-American employes of The New York Times are signing up to testify that the newspaper discriminates against its minority newspaper.
If the class-action suit goes to trial, it would be the first court case charged racial discrimination by a major U.S. new organization.
The suit alleges discrimination in hiring, promotion and salary, and it supported by a statistical analysis that concludes that nonwhite employes with comparable educational backgrounds are paid an average of $46 a week less than whites.
Most of the documents in the suit are sealed under an order sought by The Times last year after More magazine published one of the plaintiff's statistical tables.
In asking for the protective order, Times lawyers said: "It is also clear that the release of data of this type in any form has the distinct possibility of being unnecessarily embarrassing to The Times, particularly in the eyes of the general public unversed in the intricacies of statistics and appropriate considerations in salary administration."
Times Executive Vice President James Goodale said the plaintiffs' statistics don't provide an accurate picture because they "don't relate to comparable jobs."
There are Times documents, Goodale said, that contradict every allegation against the newspaper. "We've got a million analyses," he added.
"With all due respect, we don't think it's a particularly strong cases," Goodale said.
Goodale points to one of the Times' statistical analyses that argues the paper employs proportionally more minorities than are available in New York in "The relevant labor pool." Excluding craft jobs, The Times' percentage of minority workers is 19.3 while the available percentage, according to 1970 census figures, is 12.3.
The Times is no more inclined to admit it has discriminated against minorities than it was last year when it settled out of court a sex discrimination suit brought by female employes. After agreeing to pay the women $235,000 plus legal costs, The Times then hailed the settlement as a vindication of its personnel policies.
Benilda Rosario, 29, brought that latest suit, which has become a class action, after repeated frustrations in her efforts to escape what she saw as a dead-end job taking classified ads over the telephone.
"I was 22 and blind-very naive," Rosario, a Puerto Rican-American, said of herself when she began her Times Carrer after graduating from New York University.
"Minorities were told 'Go the school, get a degree and things would work out,' " she said. "I thought people would see my potential, but no one ever asked me a key question: What do you want to do in the company?"
Last March 5, Rosario was promoted. She is now a staff accountant trainee and is enthusiastic about her new job. "I feel good about myself and I'm grateful to the people who gave me this chance," she said. "But I'm not oblivious to what happened for seven years."
Only last year did the minority editorial employes at The Times begin to rally to the suit. Now, morethan 70 editorial and noneditorial employes in the jurisd than 70 editorial and noneditorial employes in the jurisdiction of The Newspaper Guild (which is paying thelegal costs) have agreed to testify, and many have given pretiral depositions.
Roger Wilkins, who writes a column on urban affairs, said, "I would much prefer not to have been involve in such a suit. But after I got here I heard my minority colleagues describe situations they thought were discriminatory. Then I saw the salary comparisons and I became enraged and became involved."
Wilkins also examined his position at The Times. "It is my judgment that my treatment is not similar to that of comparably situated whites on this paper," he said.
Conrad West, one of three blacks among The Times' 43 electricians, is president of the Afro-American Employes Association. He and other craft workers are not covered by the suit, but he applauds it. "This is the only way. The courts will appoint someone to follow up. I don't see The Times doing anything unless someone forces them to," he said.
West noted that The Times issued an affirmative-action program in 1974. "That was the kind of thing I really wanted to see work," he said, "but it's nothing but 96 pages of solid waste."
The black, Hispanic and Asian employes followed the women's suit against The Times with interest-and dismay.
When The Times claimed victory, saying that its payment to the women was only in recognition of a cultural deprivation inflicted on all women by American society for which The Times did not feel particularly responsible, one minority worker said, "Some of us became determined not to be sandbagged in the same way."