All is not well at Hearst Tower.
Last week, Hearst Magazine staffers across 24 digital and print publications revealed their intention to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East — and already executives are being accused of trying to thwart those attempts.
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“It is both unfortunate and counterproductive that executives have chosen not to respect our informed decision and wage a campaign to thwart this,” said the WGAE’s Hearst Magazines Organizing Committee in a statement issued to WWD.
“It will not work. We hope they’ll approach this in the way that has become standard in media, which is to respect employee rights to unionize,” it added.
Their statement followed media reports that Hearst executives have been quick to adopt a hard line when it comes to unionization and are unlikely to recognize it voluntarily.
That approach, according to New York Magazine, includes cautioning workers that supervisors may have violated the National Labor Relations Act if they’ve signed union cards.
For its part, Hearst is publicly keeping quiet, with a spokeswoman not responding to request for comment.
When it first revealed the decision to unionize last week, the WGAE said a “strong majority” of Hearst’s 500-member staff signed up, which would make it one of the largest media unions.
The brands include Elle, Elle Decor, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Oprah Magazine and Men’s Health, and this week, hundreds of staff have been wearing buttons to work to show their support of unionization.
— Hearst Magazines Media Union (@HearstUnion) November 20, 2019
A combination of mass layoffs and media mergers have led to a resurgence in unionization in the industry over the past few years. In addition to Hearst Magazines, the WGAE represents newsrooms at Fast Company, Refinery29, Salon, Slate, Thrillist, Vice and Vox Media, among others.
The idea is that with the support of unions like the WGAE, staffers have some sense of security regarding things like layoff notices, and severance pay nearly always worked into collective bargaining agreements.
In forming their union, Hearst Magazine’s staffers plan to address diversity, transparency, compensation and overall editorial standards. In an open letter last week, the WGAE’s Hearst Magazines Organizing Committee explained that media’s rapidly changing landscape means it’s more important than ever for staff to have a say in the conditions of their employment.
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