Unions Raise Red Flag: Big-Name Pubs Face Turmoil

Organized labor is speaking out and even striking over the layoffs planned at various publishing firms. It probably is unlikely that this will change things, but it seems to be a continuing pattern, and things may be getting nastier. 

Case in point: the NewsGuild of New York charges that Condé Nast unionized employees were met with security guards when they tried to demand information about layoffs at The New Yorker, and has filed a complaint. 

“All we wanted was answers,” said Hannah Aizenman, the associate poetry editor of The New Yorker and unit chair of The New Yorker Union. “We should not have to march on the boss to get specifics and transparency about our co-workers losing their jobs but we aren’t afraid to do it, even if there’s security.”

This follows an incident on Nov. 8 when the Condé Nast Union turned up at the publisher’s executive offices and handed in a petition demanding a say in an announced restructuring. And security guards “interrogated” Bon Appétit and Epicurious staffers who went to the test kitchen for a protest lunch on Nov. 15, the union claims. 



“Condé Nast has flatly refused to be transparent with the full union membership about why these layoffs are necessary,” says Susan DeCarva, president of the NewsGuild of New York. “Our members have a right to demand answers from company leadership without being illegally surveilled and having security called on them.”

Last month, Condé Nast CEO Roger Lynch announced in an email to employees that the company is cutting its staff by 5%, affecting 270 workers. Lynch blamed the layoffs on digital advertising pressures, a decline in social media traffic and a move by the audience to short-form video.

(In an apparent sidebar to these developments, Andy Borowitz posted, “Because of its financial difficulties, The New Yorker has been forced to cut costs. As a result, it has decided to stop publishing The Borowitz Report.)

A spokesperson for Condé Nast issued this statement: “We fully respect our employees’ right to organize and have repeatedly attempted to bargain with the union in good faith about a proposal made over a month ago. They have yet to respond. Contrary to the allegation, while some engaged in office demonstrations over the last many weeks, our security team followed standard building security protocol and did not engage with any union member.” 

In another episode involving a big-name publication, union staffers at the Washington Post planned a one-day strike on Thursday to protest layoffs and the alleged failure to bargain in good faith in contract talks. 

These negotiations have been going on for 18 months, Reuters reports. 

Thursday’s action would reportedly be the first walkout at the Post since the 1970s. 

The Post announced in October that it would cut 240 jobs. 

Of course, this is happening at a fraught time in the publishing business, with layoffs hitting in many places. 

Spokespersons for The Washington Post had not responded to a request for comment at deadline. 

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