Today, the New Yorker Union announced that its members will be “undertaking a twenty-four-hour work stoppage,” lasting between 6 A.M. this morning (Thursday, January 21), through 6 A.M. tomorrow. During this time, the official statement reads, “union members will not participate in the production or the promotion of material for the print magazine or the Web site. We are withholding our labor to demand fair wages and a transparent, equitable salary structure, and to protest management’s unacceptable response to our wage proposal and their ongoing failure to bargain in good faith.”
New Yorker staff members declared their intent to unionize in 2018, and the union has had some recent, well-publicized success in their negotiations with management. In September, during a contract dispute, the union planned to picket the New Yorker Festival; in response, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Elizabeth Warren pulled out of the event. Management quickly capitulated, ending at-will employment at the magazine.
Today’s work stoppage is in response to management’s “egregious” wage proposal, presented during ongoing negotiations, which they say “showed disrespect for us and the work we do.” Here are the details from their statement:
In November, 2020—after two years of negotiating over many other important contract provisions—the New Yorker Union presented New Yorker and Condé Nast management with a wage proposal that was aspirational but not unrealistic, designed to remedy decades of underpayment and disparities across roles and departments. The proposal included a salary floor of $65,000, which would allow entry-level employees to support themselves in New York City, and a system of graduated annual increases, which would help compensation keep pace with the cost of living and prevent wage stagnation.
We presented this proposal fully ready to negotiate; we did not expect management to automatically agree to it. But the response they offered, on January 12th, was egregious: it included a salary floor of $45,000—only $3,000 more than the lowest current full-time salaries—and an entirely discretionary “merit”-based increase system that would not guarantee any annual salary adjustments. Management also proposed retaining the right to decrease any union member’s salary by up to twenty per cent at any time.
“We are committed to The New Yorker,” the statement says, “which is why many of us have worked here years—even decades—despite low and stagnant wages. However much we may love our jobs, that love is not enough to live on.” Can’t argue with that.
Update: after this story was published, a New Yorker spokesperson reached out to Literary Hub with this comment:
We’ve had just two bargaining sessions related to economics: the union delivered a wage proposal at the end of 2020 and, in our first bargaining session of 2021, the company delivered a counter proposal. These were, on both sides, initial offers. It is our hope that, as opposed to resorting to actions like this one, the union will bargain in good faith and return a counter proposal, as is standard in negotiations. That way, we can work together productively to reach a final contract as quickly as possible.
In regards to the pay study that was released along with the union’s statement, the same spokesperson said: “We are devoted to fair pay all around. We dispute certain conclusions of this study, and we are determined to get to an equitable agreement.”