Union staff members at The Village Voice are ready and prepared to strike as their contract nears its deadline on June 30th. Today, staffers announced an alternative site, The Real Voice, where they plan to continue writing without management from Village Voice Media. We spoke to a Voice staffer and strike organizer about the situation.

The biggest issue in contract negotiations revolves around employee health benefits and 401K plan. An explanation on The Real Voice reads:

"Over the past three years, the Voice staff has been cut by an estimated 60%, and average annual salaries have markedly diminished. Management has so far played hardball with the union, refusing to make an offer, while demanding extensive concessions from the newspaper’s staff, including a substantial, ever-increasing contribution to an inferior health plan, as well as the elimination of management’s own contribution to employees’ retirement accounts."

Graham Rayman, a staff writer at the Voice since 2007 (you may remember his investigative "NYPD Tapes" series), told us "the staff is unified in its anger over these demands" and said they plan to be in negotiations for as long as necessary. "[Management] has rejected all of our demands and called them 'absurd,'" he said. "We hope that management comes to its senses." When asked if the situation had anything to do with a loss in advertising revenue stemming from a certain Jimmy Dolan penis joke, Rayman said, "We are skeptical of management's claim that they are in dire financial straits. We know they are making money."

Organizers are also planning a strike benefit tomorrow night at Public Assembly in Brooklyn. We'll update with more information as it becomes available.

UPDATE: We received the following email from Voice editor-in-chief Tony Ortega: "Every three years, we negotiate a new contract with the union. And every three years, the union authorizes a strike vote. Nothing that's happened so far is any different than in previous years, and I expect that on or before June 30 we will end up with a new contract that is approved by both sides."