The digital arm of Meredith Corp.-owned People Magazine on Wednesday revealed its intention to unionize with the News Guild of New York, but owner Meredith Corp. declined to voluntarily recognize its efforts.
“While we recognize the federal right of employees to join a union, we believe it is imperative that each employee exercise their federal right of a secret ballot election and, for this reason, it is our policy to not voluntarily recognize a union, as to do so would bypass our employees’ democratic right to vote,” a Meredith spokeswoman said.
That means that the National Labor Relations Board, the federal body charged with deciding if and when an election can take place if a company won’t, will likely have to get involved, as it recently did with Hearst Magazines. This can in some cases take months, especially during lockdown when it is harder for the NLRB to conduct field research.
Currently, only those considered print staffers at People Magazine, one of Meredith’s key titles, are unionized with the Guild (their union was formed in the Seventies, long before People was acquired by Meredith), although employees argue that there isn’t a difference.
“All editorial employees contribute to both platforms — the print-digital divide is non-existent. But only People print editorial members are protected by a union contract with the NewsGuild of New York. Digital staffers deserve the same protection and benefits,” the People Magazine Union said, adding that the pandemic has made it more important than ever that they try to obtain the same rights as their colleagues.
As a result of plummeting revenues due to the pandemic, Meredith, which also owns InStyle, cut salaries for 60 percent of its 5,000 staffers. Around 45 percent of those impacted will receive a 15 percent pay reduction, while the remaining 15 percent, made up of Meredith’s highest paid employees, will take pay cuts of between 20 percent and 40 percent through Sept. 4. Employees receiving pay reductions will have one day of unpaid leave a week during the same period and Meredith has also implemented a wage, salary and hiring freeze. Its moves mirrored those at many other media companies suffering from the impacts of the coronavirus, with many — including unionized and digital ones — cutting pay and even permanently cutting staff.
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