Hundreds of Hearst Magazines staffers across titles such as Esquire, Elle and Harper’s Bazaar have voted in favor of forming a union, which will be one of the largest in the media industry.
That’s the verdict, according to the National Labor Relations Board, the federal body that decides if an election can happen if a company (in this case, Hearst Magazines) declines to voluntarily recognize it.
In May, nearly seven months after staffers revealed their intention to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East, the NLRB ruled that an election could take place in July. After receiving the mailed-out ballots, the NLRB counted them Wednesday and 241 staffers voted for the union, outweighing the 83 that voted against it.
The results come just a few days after Troy Young was forced to resign as president of Hearst Magazines after The New York Times published an investigation into his lewd behavior and comments in the workplace. Those in top management are searching for his successor while Debi Chirichella, executive vice president, chief financial officer and director of global operations for Hearst Magazines, has taken the reins in the interim.
Young is widely viewed as having spearheaded a fierce opposition campaign to the union, allegedly engaging in a number of union-busting tactics. The WGAE filed an unfair labor practice charge against Young with the NLRB, which deals with all kinds of labor disputes.
Now that the results have been revealed, staffers will head to the bargaining table soon with Hearst management and sources said it could be beneficial not to have Young there, as long as chief content officer Kate Lewis isn’t given more responsibility. That’s because they view her as having adopted the same hard line against a union.
The workplace culture fostered by Young is understood to be one of the main reasons that staffers wanted to unionize. He separated print and digital, only to begin reintegration in 2018 without clear direction. There was also no structure for pay raises and reviews.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the union said: “Hundreds of us across 28 brands and several states voted for a fairer and more transparent workplace, and we can’t wait to bring this energy to negotiations.”
A Hearst spokeswoman added: “We’ve been listening to our editorial teams’ aspirations for the company and will continue to address and act on them. Now, it’s time to forge a path forward together, to maintain Hearst Magazines’ focus on innovation and long tradition of creating highly informative, engaging content.”
A number of staffers at the likes of Vice Media, BuzzFeed, NBC Digital, Fortune Digital and Vox Media have unionized over the past few years during a period of large layoffs across the industry, which is being exacerbated by the pandemic, with most of those companies seeing steep job cuts.
In the case of Hearst employees, they hope that unionizing will help them address diversity, transparency, compensation and overall editorial standards. They also believe it will enable them to have a better sense of layoff notices and severance pay, which is nearly always worked into collective bargaining agreements.
Hearst is one of the few media companies not to make COVID-19-related job cuts. Its rival Condé Nast has cut both pay and jobs.
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