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Vogue, Bon Appétit and other Condé Nast staff unite

The union would cover more than 500 editorial and video production workers at 11 publications, including Bon Appétit, Architectural Digest and Allure. Those leading the effort say nearly 80% of eligible workers have indicated support.

In a statement emailed hours after the letter was delivered, Condé spokesman Patrick Maks said the company plans “to have productive and thoughtful conversations with [the unionizing workers] over the next few weeks to find out more.

They model their efforts after a successful organizing campaign at one of Condé’s most high-profile titles, the New Yorker, which led a high-profile campaign for a contract that included protests, celebrity endorsers and a strike threat. .

In that case, members of the New Yorker union argued that the magazine’s elite reputation contrasted with the reality of rank-and-file employees earning as little as $42,000 a year. The two sides eventually agreed to a contract that would raise the minimum wage to $60,000 by 2023; Conde said at the time the deal reflected the standards they had already worked to establish itself at company level.

The very public campaign helped underscore a message that aggrieved employees were trying to get across: that the stereotype of the well-paid fashion magazine clerk driving around Manhattan in a Town Car is a mirage, a thing of the pass.

“It’s about prestige that doesn’t pay the bills,” Vanity Fair Web producer Jaime Archer said, echoing the New Yorker Union’s rallying cry. “We like working here and we want to continue working here. … If Condé wants to attract the best talent in the business, they need to stop relying on prestige and offer fair compensation and benefits.

Several described a workplace where some employees are overwhelmed with extra work as their colleagues leave due to burnout or the cost of living in New York City. An employee said members of the company’s fashion network – who do both the logistical and labor work to organize the fashion shoots – took on more work after the layoffs and consolidation .

Christina Chaey, senior food writer at Bon Appétit, said the notion of needing “paying dues” to work in an elite media house, in the form of long hours on meager pay, is outdated.

She referred to the fiction “The Devil Wears Prada”, written by a former Vogue assistant. “The era of ‘a million girls would kill for this job’ is rapidly coming to an end. And all for the best. »

A coveted spot in Condé is still seen as a dream job to land, said Nico Avalle, digital operations associate for Bon Appétit. “But after a while, the dream fades. Turns out, dream jobs are just jobs. She argued that a union would make people feel more responsible for their work and get better wages and benefits.

Condé’s labor movement had a catalyst in a period of upheaval two years ago that exposed many internal problems.

The company pledged to do better, releasing a “Condé Code” that said “exceptional does not mean exclusive” and a diversity report that showed nearly 40% of people hired in 2020 were people of color. .

Like much of the publishing industry, Condé has seen its ad revenue fall off a cliff in the digital age. It folded some titles or shot them web-only and went years without showing a profit. In 2020, it laid off 100 employees, instituted furloughs and cut salaries, including for executives.

Union members say they are seeking pay transparency, more generous raises and enhanced job security for long-time contractor employees. Another goal is to create a diversity committee to review salary and hiring data and ensure that at least half of job applicants come from underrepresented groups.

“We publish stories every day about how women can stand up for themselves, how mothers should be treated well, and about the pay gap in the workplace,” said Jenny Singer, Glamor editor. . “There is nothing more important than Condé putting into practice what he preaches in his pages.”

The New Yorker’s campaign became controversial, with a protest outside the home of Wintour, who had been promoted to oversee global content (The New Yorker was outside her purview). But Condé has voluntarily recognized unions at four of its properties – the New Yorker, Ars Technica, Pitchfork and Wired – and those involved in this latest campaign said they hope the company will do the same with the Condé union more wide, rather than forcing an NLRB to vote.

“Drawing out this process will only further damage relations between workers and Condé’s management,” said Nastaran Mohit, organizing director of the NewsGuild of New York. “The sooner they voluntarily acknowledge it, the sooner we can get to the bargaining table and negotiate a contract.”

Cory E. Barnes

The author Cory E. Barnes