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Remezcla Co-Founder Promises to Change Toxic Workplace By Staying in Charge, Keeping Things Mostly the Same

Illustration for article titled Remezcla Co-Founder Promises to Change Toxic Workplace By Staying in Charge, Keeping Things Mostly the Same
Image: Bryan Steffy (Getty Images)

During the nearly two weeks of silence from Remezcla following a Jezebel report outlining the reportedly toxic work environment for women at the groundbreaking Latinx culture site, a group of employees, former employees, and other Latina writers put together a letter calling for the resignation of CEO and co-founder Andrew Herrera. In the story, women former employees said Herrera was so verbally and psychologically abusive many of them suffered ulcers and stress-induced hair loss during their time with the company and that he was aided in this behavior by the site’s managing editor Eduardo Cepeda.

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Less than 24-hours after the group of 20 Latina writers released a petition to Change.org, demanding Remezcla address the allegations, Herrera has announced, per a blog post, that Cepeda will depart the company and says, though he is not stepping down, he will “respond with action, commitment, and intention.”

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Though Herrera promises that he will now use his position to “lead [the site] to a place of greater cultural relevance by elevating and amplifying our voices,” he has no satisfying response to the fact that his continued leadership means his voice will always be loudest in an environment where women writers say he used that voice to berate and gaslight them. While Herrera continues to enjoy the benefits of his position, several of his former employees say working with him was an experience that drove them not just from the company, but out of journalism entirely.

According to Jezebel’s report, Remezcla co-founder Claire Frisbie says she left the company she helped build after Herrera read her personal emails and used them in a private conversation to convince her to stop down. (In an email, Hererra denied Frisbie’s account and did not reply to a subsequent request for comment from Jezebel.) Two other employees who worked closely with Herrera tell Jezebel that they, too, left media altogether after their experiences working 12-hour days at the company.

And though Herrera writes that he will “step up” to address “the patriarchal culture of the Latin community and society generally,” the plans he outlines at Remezcla are mostly a jumble of buzzwords, which fail to acknowledge his own responsibility for driving Latina writers away from careers in an industry where they are desperately underrepresented. Instead, he vaguely attributes their experiences to a patriarchal culture.

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In the petition, employees and former employees claim that Cepeda participated in the harassment of woman employees alongside Herrera:

“Cepeda routinely gaslit women employees and contributors, created an atmosphere of competition and manipulation, and conspired with Herrera to publicly shame women employees in meetings and elsewhere,” the petition says.

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According to one former employee, Cepeda, along with Herrera, routinely asked interns to do the work of editors. In the letter, employees claim that Cepeda “neglected his editing duties on a regular basis, performed no fact-checking nor even a basic copy edit.” That work according to the former employee, who spoke with Jezebel on conditions of anonymity, was often left to junior-level employees like herself. Like many employees who spoke to Jezebel in the initial report, she says she was hired on an hourly basis just out of college to assist editors and full-time staff. But after managing editor Yara Simón was let go along with social media director Juliana Pache and culture editor Raquel Reichard, her responsibilities became those of a senior-level editor due to a lack of staff, though her job title remained the same. (Cepeda did not respond to Jezebel’s request for comment.)

Herrera’s response, which states that Cepeda is no longer employed at the company, deflects much of the abuse and exploitation alleged by other employees, attributing it instead to Remezcla’s start-up culture:

“Though our early days as a startup were an exciting time it was also extremely chaotic and difficult for me and my co-founders, and it was also difficult for our former employees. Remezcla has been run like a startup for too long.”

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Yet in their petition, former employees say that the behavior of Herrera and Cepeda goes beyond that of a disorganized early-stage company, and instead “speaks of a larger insidious Boys Club at Remezcla.” In an effort to end that boys’ club culture, workers, former workers, and Latina writers are calling for specific actions, such as the removal of Herrera and Cepeda, along with releasing employees from non-disclosure agreements, which limit employees’ ability to share their experiences, an internal audit of Remezcla’s business practices, detailed evaluations of job duties for all employees, and re-evaluation of salaries for employees based on the work that they are actually performing.

Herrera’s post mentions none of those improvements specifically, offering instead a promise to “treat our employees with a greater amount of transparency, support them with the appropriate HR resources, and engage in more frequent and better communication.”

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Herrera also says that the company will set up a “Fund for Journalism for Social Issues,” though it is unclear where or to whom those funds will go.

According to Alex Zaragoza, who told Jezebel that Remezcla rescinded a job offer for a position that was eventually given to Cepeda, more than 20 former employees of Remezcla consulted on the drafting of the petition, which they hope will result in Remezcla’s continued excellence as a voice for the Latinx community while forcing the company to address the inequality of its workplace.

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“The women carrying the load truly care about the work that they do,” Zaragoza says. “It’s absolutely vital to the Latinx community. These men are trying to take advantage of that.”

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