In addition to other union-thwarting tactics, Hearst Magazines executives have another aggressive trick up their sleeves to prevent staff from unionizing on a large scale.
At a National Labor Relations Board Thursday, representatives for Hearst were expected to argue that the bargaining unit should be broken up into six smaller unions instead of a single one encompassing hundreds of employees across 24 brands that include Esquire, Elle and Cosmopolitan, according to a series of tweets by the Hearst Magazines Media Union.
“They want us to be divided into six completely separate unions,” one of the tweets said. “In some cases, they split people working for the same magazine into two different groups. The other divisions would be by geography. There are also whole groups of us they don’t want to be able to vote at all.”
If successful, the strategy could complicate the unionization process by giving the company more avenues to try to dissuade workers from forming a union, and potentially prevent some staffers from being able to vote.
Many Hearst employees have opposed the move. Justin Kirkland, a staff writer at Esquire, was one of a number who have taken to social media to express their dismay at Hearst’s dealings with the unionization efforts.
“Six parts is not undivided — it’s a way to splinter a community that is very proud to stand in solidarity with one another. The rights of my colleagues in other departments are as important as mine. #HearstUndivided,” he tweeted.
A representative for Hearst did not immediately respond to request for comment on the dispute, or confirm if Troy Young, president of Hearst Magazines, attended Thursday’s hearing.
Ever since editorial, video, design, photo and social staff across 24 of New York-based Hearst’s digital and print brands revealed their intentions last month to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East, executives have been trying to dissuade them, including by setting up an anti-union web site.
The media company’s refusal to recognize the union resulted in the Hearst Magazine Media Union filing for a union election with the federal NLRB, the federal agency that oversees disputes related to workplace organizing.
When management does not voluntarily recognize their employees’ move to join a union, the decision may come down to an NLRB-supervised election where employees can formally vote to unionize.
The NLRB was due to hear both sides’ arguments Thursday and help resolve the dispute on who can vote, and how. The vote would then take place within a month after the NLRB’s decision. In the meantime, Hearst is free to continue its campaign to dissuade workers from voting for the union.
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