On Monday morning, The New Yorker union officials unveiled a website that contained their calls for higher wages and job security, as well as a statement that they were “on the verge of a strike.”
On Tuesday evening, employees marched from the New York University campus to the nearby house of Anna Wintour in Greenwich Village, the fashion icon, magazine editor, publishing director and power player in Manhattan, who became a symbol of Condé Nast, the headquarters of The New Yorker.
“Bosses wear Prada, workers get Nada!” They sang.
There were about 100 protesters in total, many of them fact-checkers or editorial staff from the New York Union, a group that was formed three years ago and is part of the NewsGuild of New York.
Protesters included workers from two other Union-represented Condé Nast publications – the Ars Technica and Pitchfork digital publications.
A few police officers watched the protesters march in a loop outside Ms. Wintour’s darkened townhouse on the otherwise quiet block of Sullivan Street. They carried signs reading “Prestige cannot be eaten” and “Fair pay now” in the unmistakable New Yorker font.
Genevieve Bormes, associate cover editor at The New Yorker, said she made $ 53,000 annually after working for the magazine for more than five years. Her salary was $ 33,000 when she started in 2016, she said, adding that the wages offered by the magazine favored workers with a financial cushion.
“People from different backgrounds cannot afford to work there,” said Ms. Bormes.
The protest escalated sharply in the two-year battle between The New Yorker employees and Condé Nast over wages, health benefits, and work and personal life.
The company tried to prevent this from happening in an email Monday evening to union workers saying, “Aiming at someone’s home and sharing their location publicly is unacceptable.” The union responded with an email , in which she accused the company of “what looks like an unlawful attempt to prevent protected concerted activity”.
Talks between The New Yorker Union and Condé Nast began in late 2018, shortly after more than 100 editors, fact checkers, and other staff organized with the NewsGuild.
Some New York workers make only $ 42,000 a year, according to the union. The union is targeting a base salary of $ 60,000 for its members.
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In recent negotiations, the company offered a floor of $ 54,500, according to Natalie Meade, a fact-checker and chairwoman of the magazine’s NewsGuild unit. A Condé Nast spokeswoman said the company had made progress in recent negotiations, adding, “We hope to have a deal soon so real wage increases find their way to our union workers.”
Many New Yorker editors, including some of the magazine’s high profile staff, are considered freelancers and are not allowed to unionize under federal labor law. In the event of a strike, the union has urged all New York workers not to submit articles or do other work for the magazine.
Shirley Nwangwa, who has been a fact checker at The New Yorker since January, said of her colleagues: “You can somehow maintain your brilliance, even though you don’t make a lot of money in one of the most expensive cities in the world.”
Vrinda Jagota, associate social media manager at Pitchfork, said negotiations had taken too long and Condé Nast leaders had been “slow at every turn”.
“I hope she hears us,” she said of Mrs. Wintour.
Ms. Wintour’s authority has been questioned by ordinary employees and a few coworkers since last spring, but that has not stopped her ascent.
Ms. Wintour has been Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire since 2017 and was celebrated and satirized by Meryl Streep in the film “The Devil Wears Prada” in 2006. Ms. Wintour started at Condé Nast as editor of the American edition of Vogue more than three decades ago when everyone was talking about print magazines and London-trained editors.
She was named Condé Nast Artistic Director in 2013 and Global Content Advisor to the company in 2019. In late 2020, she was named global chief content officer and global editor-in-chief, a position that gave her the final say on Condé Nast releases, which include Vanity Fair, in more than 30 markets outside the United States.
There is a Condé Nast publication that Ms. Wintour does not oversee: The New Yorker, which author and editor David Remnick has directed since 1998. Mr Remnick and Mrs Wintour declined to comment on this article.
Ms. Meade said the union chose Ms. Wintour’s neighborhood because she was serving as a “proxy” for Condé Nast. “What happens in the New Yorker doesn’t necessarily happen in a vacuum,” she said.
The protest was Condé Nast’s most dramatic job move since employees at the New Yorker lost their jobs for a day in January. When staff refused to work at the annual New York Festival in September, Senator Elizabeth Warren and MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez withdrew from their performances in solidarity with them.
In March, the magazine’s union members, along with the Ars Technica and Pitchfork unions, voted to allow a strike.
Noam Scheiber contributed the reporting.