Are Hearst executives strengthening their ranks as they gear up for what could be a nasty battle over unionization?
David Carey stepped down from his role as president of Hearst’s Magazines division last year after eight years at the helm to become a fellow at Harvard University, making way for Troy Young. At the time, the move was widely viewed as the beginning of his retirement from publishing after 40 years in the business.
Now it doesn’t appear that he’s ready to be put out to pasture just yet.
That’s because just weeks after Hearst Magazine staffers revealed their intentions to unionize and the company subsequently refused to recognize it, Carey is getting ready to come back full-time. In a surprise turn of events, Hearst just named him senior vice president of public affairs and communications, effective Jan. 2. He is still also chairman of Hearst Magazines, a role he retained throughout his studies at Harvard.
“We are excited to have David back at Hearst full-time in this new role,” said Hearst chief executive officer Steven R. Swartz, to whom Carey will report. In a memo to staff last year, he wrote that he hoped he could keep Carey connected to Hearst after his studies.
According to Swartz, Carey’s official role will be to “lead efforts to enhance our contribution to our communities through our core business mission, through philanthropy and through our participation in key civic groups.”
But official lines aside, his return will no doubt lead to speculation within the media industry that he was brought back to help the media company’s union-fighting efforts.
Ever since editorial, video, design, photo and social staff across 24 of New York-based Hearst’s digital and print brands revealed their intentions to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East last month, executives have been trying to dissuade them, including setting up an antiunion web site.
This has resulted in the Hearst Magazine Media Union filing for a union election with the federal National Labor Relations Board. That request is pending.
“We are disappointed with Hearst management’s refusal to recognize our union voluntarily, but we will go through this process to certify our union and proceed to the bargaining table,” said the union in a tweet at the time of the filing.
Carey joined Hearst from rival Condé Nast, where he oversaw the company’s media properties targeted to executive audiences and before that he was publisher of The New Yorker from 1998 to 2005 and is credited with returning the publication to profitability after the departure of Tina Brown as editor in chief.
At Harvard, Carey was a fellow at its Advanced Leadership Initiative, a program that selects a small group of senior executives from around the world to spend two semesters on the Harvard campus studying solutions to large-scale societal problems.
“My time at ALI focusing on social impact has been truly transformational, and I’m looking forward to working closely with Steve and our division leaders to amplify Hearst’s existing programs and create new initiatives to further strengthen our corporation while making a positive difference in our broader society,” Carey said.
Whether he will help strategize on how to keep Hearst Magazines from unionizing fits in with “making a positive difference” remains to be seen.
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