Workers at Condé Nast staged an Oscar-themed picket line on Tuesday — complete with a makeshift red carpet, and a step and repeat — outside of the company’s One World Trade Center offices in Lower Manhattan.
The 24-hour work stoppage came on the same morning that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced Oscar nominations, among the busiest news days for titles including Vanity Fair, which devotes considerable editorial resources to covering every aspect of Hollywood awards season, with the Academy Awards being the pinnacle.
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The picket line is organized to protest what the Condé Nast union and the New York NewsGuild have characterized as “unlawful handling of layoff negotiations and bad-faith bargaining” since Condé Nast chief executive Roger Lynch announced last November that company-wide layoffs would soon commence.
The union has been locked in contentious contract negotiations with Condé Nast management for more than a year, since September 2022. Tensions went from a low simmer to a roiling boil last November when Lynch announced plans to lay off 5 percent of Condé Nast’s U.S workforce. Since then, the union contends, management has moved the goal posts by proposing, among other things, deeper cuts amounting to nearly 100 positions, or nearly 20 percent of the union. Earlier this month, the NewsGuild filed an unfair labor practices complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency charged with protecting the bargaining rights of private sector employees.
Last week, Anna Wintour, Condé Nast chief content officer, informed about half of the workers at Pitchfork, the company’s music news and criticism publication, that their jobs were being eliminated in yet another effort at cost-cutting. Several Pitchfork writers announced their layoffs on social media. Former staff writer Allison Hussey noted on X that Wintour did not bother to remove her trademark impenetrable black sunglasses as she informed them that they were out of work.
“One absolutely bizarro detail from this week is that Anna Wintour — seated indoors at a conference table — did not remove her sunglasses while she was telling us that we were about to get canned,” Hussey wrote. “The indecency we’ve seen from upper management this week is appalling.”
The Condé Nast union represents workers at Vogue, Teen Vogue, Vanity Fair, GQ, Allure, Glamour, Self, Condé Nast Traveler, Architectural Digest, Epicurious, Bon Appétit and Condé Nast Entertainment. Pitchfork had its own union. Wintour announced that remaining Pitchfork staff would be folded into GQ.
“The last nearly three months of fighting for our co-workers on the company’s layoff list has led us to today,” Ben Dewey, a Condé Nast Entertainment videographer and vice chair of the CNE unit of the union, said in a statement released Tuesday. “Our 24-hour walkout is about standing firmly behind our colleagues and showing Condé Nast management in the clearest possible way that we will not tolerate their disrespect at the bargaining table over these layoffs. It is time to start bargaining in good faith with us.”
The union also staged a virtual picket line Tuesday, by asking readers not to engage with the company’s digital content online or on social media.
January has been a particularly restive — and grim — month for legacy media. The Los Angeles Times on Jan. 19 staged a walkout amid a chaotic chapter that began with the abrupt resignation on Jan. 9 of editor-in-chief Kevin Merida after disagreements with Patrick Soon-Shiong, the paper’s biotech billionaire owner, over Soon-Shiong’s plans for the paper. On Tuesday, Soon-Shiong announced cuts totaling more than 20 percent of the newsroom, or at least 115 employees, the largest reduction in the paper’s 142-year-old history.
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