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What Caused the Condé Nast Union Strike?

by Lois Geal

While infamous movies like The Devil Wears Prada poke fun at the toxic workplace culture in publishing houses, it’s unfortunately not just fiction. 

More than 400 workers across Condé Nast brands such as Vogue, The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, GQ, Glamour, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit walked out on Tuesday (23rd) to protest the companies practices which they claim violates labor law.

They protested stalled contract negotiations and unfair layoff practices in front of the company’s offices in New York and created a mock of the company’s infamous YouTube series with a video titled “73 Answers with Condé Workers”. 

This action stems from labor negotiations that saw Condé Nast CEO, Roger Lynch, announced the company’s intentions to cut 5 percent of its workforce on November 1st, 2023.

The one-day walkout was “really about the company engaging in regressive bargaining and breaking the law in bargaining by rescinding an offer that they had previously made around layoffs,” the union’s Condé Nast Entertainment unit vice chair Ben Dewey, a videographer, told The Hollywood Reporter. “There’s so much solidarity that everybody is really looking out for their coworkers and willing to go on strike for this unfair way that the company is engaging in bargaining.” 

According to Dewey, this was the company’s first union strike in its 115 year history, and it was strategically planned. Taking place the same day Oscar Nominations were announced, a busy day for reporting across many Condé brands, the picket line poked at this topic by featuring "a red carpet, 'step and repeat' and more" to serve as a reminder of the value of journalists' work covering Hollywood, the Union said. 

Condé also announced last week that its music outlet Pitchfork is being folded into GQ, which brought media attention from claims that Anna Wintour kept her sunglasses on whilst delivering this news. This had led to workers protesting management's "unlawful bargaining tactics during layoff negotiations." 

Following the layoff announcement in November, the NewsGuild of New York filed an unfair labor practice charge against Condé Nast with the National Labor Relations Board, arguing the company violated labor laws when it encountered a severance proposal with half of the initially offered payout. Now, the Union has been bargaining its first contract since certification in September 2022.

Actress Anne Hathaway walked out of a Vanity Fair photo shoot Tuesday morning in support of the Condé Nast Union walk out.

Hathaway was unaware of the work stoppage when she arrived at the New York City photo shoot. She was still in hair and makeup when her team was notified by a staffer from SAG-AFTRA to advise Hathaway to support the work stoppage.

“They hadn’t even started taking photos yet,” a source tells Variety. “Once Anne was made aware of what was going on, she just got up from hair and makeup and left.”

In the past two years, unions at Gannett, Insider, G/O Media, Ziff Davis, Wirecutter, the Miami Herald, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Palm Springs Desert Sun, Washington Post, NBC News and others all engaged in strikes or walkouts.

Strikes and work stoppages have become a bigger part of union negotiation tactics in recent years, as newsrooms face seemingly never-ending layoffs and cost-cutting. We support the Condé staff union and hope for a quick resolution to their toxic workplace. 

Edited by Emily Duff

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