New York Magazine is making a lot of changes as of late and it seems staffers are looking to have more of a say.
Editorial employees of the magazine and web site, which also serves as an umbrella brand to sites like The Cut, Vulture and recently expanded Intelligencer, among others, presented editor in chief Adam Moss with a petition for voluntary recognition of their union group, formed under the NewsGuild of New York. In a memo from the Guild, the group said nearly 80 percent of eligible staff at New York Media, the name of the holding company, have signed up for union representation.
In their collective mission statement, the staff alluded to some grievances, including “increasing corporate pressures” and “stagnant wages and benefits.” Staff also claimed the pay situation has forced some to find a “more tenable job elsewhere” and that some employees for years “have been paid well below media standards” while benefits “constantly change and don’t meet our actual needs.”
“Salaries vary significantly between people who hold the same position, and career development is either nonexistent or inadequate,” the statement reads. “Across the board, employees know the best chance to earn a raise or promotion is to get a job offer elsewhere. All of this only exacerbates an already troubling lack of diversity in our newsroom.
“The precarity of our industry is well-known, and job security is always an issue,” the statement reads. “We all feel enormous pride and investment in our positions here. But of course, pride and prestige do not on their own bring stability. We need that, too.”
One staff writer for Vulture noted on Twitter that the union effort has been going on “for a long time” and he knows “it’s a privilege to have been treated as well as I have by the company; I’m looking to exchange those privileges for rights.”
Moss responded to the petition with an e-mail to employees, striking a conciliatory tone — voluntary recognition seems on the way.
“We plan to work with the union and hope we can get to voluntary recognition pretty soon,” Moss wrote. “In the meantime, I just want to say that, from our perspective, you guys are the best in the business. We’re grateful for that and are committed to doing everything we can to making this the most equitable workplace we can. More later.”
Over the last year, New York Magazine’s audience has grown, seemingly along with its ambitions. The company, owned by the Wasserstein family and operated by Pamela Wasserstein, is said to be looking for an outside investment of some kind, although the possibility of an outright sale was floated over the summer by The Wall Street Journal. A few months later it revealed plans for its online content to go behind a paywall for the first time, something a number of online media brands have adopted, in one way or another, as advertising continues to be less stable and consumers seem more willing to pay for online content.
Changes to ownership and revenue models are far from issues that only New York Magazine is facing and this year has also seen a number of other magazines and digital brands move to unionize for the first time. Fast Company gained voluntary recognition of an editorial union, as did permanent staff at The New Yorker, making it the only property under Condé Nast to have a bargaining unit as the company moves through corporate upheaval.
Those efforts add to a pile of news and magazine organizations that have similarly unionized in recent years, including The Los Angeles Times, Vox Media, Thrillist, Huffington Post, Gawker Media (now Gizmodo Media Group, which is again up for sale), Vice Media, Salon Media, Mic, ThinkProgress and The Guardian U.S. The wave is not exactly surprising given the broader changes in media, led by the massive consumer shift away from print, which has resulted in countless layoffs, consolidations and outright closures at newspapers and magazines over recent years. While a union is no guarantee of security, as layoffs are still frequent in organized newsrooms, it does give workers some say in how a company goes about making changes.