The Condé Nast Union (@condeunited//Instagram) claimed the private company owned by the Newhouse family is engaging in unfair labor practices as the glitzy publisher of The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue and GQ is cutting staff as it wrestles with the changing media landscape. Workers manned a picket outside company HQ at 1 World Trade Center.
Last week, about 400 members of Condé Nast Union staged a one-day strike—the first ever in the company’s history— to protest against planned layoffs and shady negotiations (according to the union).
The publications represented by Condé Union included GQ, Vanity Fair, Bon Appetit, Architectural Digest, Vogue, Allure, Glamour, Epicurious, Self, Condé Nast Traveler, Them, and Teen Vogue. Their presence outside respective offices were preceded by online calls for a 24-hour digital boycott of the titles’ respective websites: “no clicks, likes, reshares.”
On November 1, 2023, Condé Nast announced that it would be laying off five percent of its work force. According to the Union, Conde Nast subsequently revised that plan to one that involved cutting 94 union jobs—which is about 20 percent of the Condé union—and offering the same severance package to union members as other company staffers. Following a union counter-proposal, Condé allegedy offered a worse deal, after which the News Guild of New York—the parent organization of Condé Union—filed a “regressive bargaining” charge against the company with the National Labor Relations Board. Said News Guild president Susan DeCarava, “Media workers at Condé Nast are key to the company’s success and reputation for excellence. They deserve for their work to be respected on the job and at the bargaining table.”
Condé Nast has not publicly responded to the Union’s charges.
In contrast, the protest was a very public event though exactly what publics they were appealing to remains an open question. For sure, their fellow media workers noticed, with sympathetic articles appearing on, among others, CNN, the Washington Post, Women’s Wear Daily, Variety and the Hollywood Reporter. The last was especially important, as the Condé walkout was specifically timed to coincide with the announcement of the Oscars—a major news event for some of its titles.
I have to say, some of the picketing signs were creative af : “Dream Jobs Are Still Jobs” (my favorite); “Epicurious Layoffs=Recipe For Disaster”; “Jobs 4 Employees? Groundbreaking”; “Layoffs Are Out Of Fashion”; “Gird Your Loins”; and “Now Is The Wintour Of Our Discontent”– the last referring to Anna Wintour, the legendary Vogue editor who is now Condé’s Chief Content Officer.
Other anti-Wintour signs included “The Devil Wears Sunglasses When She Lays You Off”—this last referring to Wintour’s announcement the previous week that Pitchfork, the music criticism and news site Condé purchased from its founder, Ryan Schreiber, in 2015, was being moved under the internal direction of GQ. Among those ouster was Puja Patel, Pitchfork’s editor since 2018. Pitchfork as a brand also promotes popular multi-day music festivals in Chicago, Paris London and, for the first time in 2024, Mexico City.