The New Yorker Staff Has Unionized

The era of white-collar organized labor is fully upon us: the editorial staff of The New Yorker wants to unionize. This morning, organizers sent a letter to the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, asking that the institution and its corporate owner, Condé Nast, voluntarily recognize their membership in the NewsGuild of New York. (Publications ranging from the New York Times to Jacobin have bargaining units with the NewsGuild.) Organizers say that of the 115 or so union-eligible employees, nearly 90 percent have signed union cards.

The group includes copy editors, web producers, fact-checkers, photo and design staff, the social-media and publicity teams, editorial assistants, and assistant editors. Management and senior-level employees are excluded, as are staff writers, whose job title would not escape the red pen of the magazine’s fact department: Writers at The New Yorker are nearly all independent contractors, rather than staff, and thus do not receive health care or other benefits, despite being largely prevented from writing for other outlets. The relatively few editorial staffers who’ve expressed concerns with the unionizing effort say they are worried about retaliation in an industry where reputation is the coin of the realm.

Among the issues organizers cite are pay disparity among employees doing similar jobs, what they say are low wages compared to competitors, and no clear way in which raises are standardized or tied to measurable job performance. Overtime is a complicated issue: low-level full-time staff, who work long hours, are mostly dissuaded — both implicitly and explicitly — they say, from putting in for the few hours of overtime they’re allotted. Meanwhile, some workers, like new fact-checking hires, are initially brought on as subcontractors, in some cases for as long as two years. When a position opens up on staff, they’re forced to choose between employer-provided health care and losing overtime: going on staff is, functionally, a significant pay cut.

Assistant editor McKenna Stayner said that it’s hard for The New Yorker “to make the argument that the magazine can’t afford to treat its current employees better given that we’re making a profit, that we’re growing massively and hiring,” And, Stayner argued, recognizing the proposed union feels like a moment for the publication to live its values. “What we’re promoting in our pages, we should also be promoting in our workplace. We run labor pieces, and for many of our writers, their system of beliefs is for workers’ rights. Particularly in the last year and a half, with the certain kind of tone of moral authority we have taken on, it would be confusing for both readers and employees for there to be a lot of aggressive pressure against unionizing from New Yorker management.”

“We’ve been told for years that because you get prestige, you don’t get money,” said one print staffer who asked to discuss salary considerations anonymously because of the potential professional consequences. The staffer pointed out that cost of living in New York has far outstripped pay increases at the publication. “You have to be independently wealthy, or have an alternate form of funds, to afford to take these jobs, and many people come from the same pool of Harvard or Yale,” the staffer said (adding that, despite the editor-in-chief’s alma mater, “Princeton is not in vogue at The New Yorker anymore”).
more at source: http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2018/06/the-new-yorker-staff-wants-to-unionize.html

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