Workers at 12 Condé Nast publications informed the company on Tuesday that they had formed a union, the Washington Post reports. They’re organizing for better pay, salary transparency, job security for longtime contractors, and a more diverse workforce.
The Condé Nast Union consists of more than 500 editorial, production, and video workers at Allure, Architectural Digest, Bon Appétit, Epicurious, Condé Nast Traveler, Glamour, GQ, Self, Teen Vogue, Them, Vanity Fair, and Vogue. Nearly 80 percent of eligible workers have indicated their support for the effort, per the Post. The workers organized under the NewsGuild of New York, and the New York Times first reported on the organizing effort in December.
Four other Condé titles—Wired, The New Yorker, Ars Technica, and Pitchfork—have already unionized. The company voluntarily recognized those unions and workers at the broader Condé Union are hoping it will do the same here, rather than force an election with the National Labor Relations Board, or NLRB. (This is the kind of election you may have read about at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama, and at Starbucks stores across the country.)
While Condé did initially recognize the New Yorker Union, it took more than two years of negotiations, a strike authorization, and a 2021 protest outside the Manhattan townhouse of the company’s Chief Content Officer, Anna Wintour, in order to get a contract. During that campaign, union members revealed that New Yorker staffers were earning as little as $42,000 a year.
The company has weathered several scandals in the past two years, starting with the former Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Adam Rapoport resigning over photos of him in brownface, many high-profile BA video staffers quitting amid allegations of a culture of racism, and Wintour apologizing in an internal memo for Vogue not supporting Black staffers and creators as well as past “hurtful and intolerant” content. Then there was the Teen Vogue Editor-in-Chief “resigning” before she’d even started due to allegations of homophobia and anti-Asian racism.
Condé is the last major magazine publisher where workers have formed a company-wide union, following drives at Hearst, Meredith (now Dotdash Meredith), and the now-defunct Time Inc. That sentence illustrates some of the challenges facing media workers in recent years, which the union addresses in its mission statement:
“We are the people who have kept Condé Nast at the forefront of media for more than a hundred years. We produce genre-defining work across culture, fashion, entertainment, politics, and beyond. We continue to set the industry standard at a time when the future of journalism is imperiled, media professionals are vulnerable to layoffs, and nuanced cultural conversation is increasingly rare. That’s why it’s time for us to have a seat at the table alongside management.”
Jezebel spoke via email with a member of Condé Nast management who is “sadly” unable to join the union and wished to remain anonymous in order to talk about the union’s goals without facing professional retaliation.
“The CNU mission statement rings incredibly true to me,” they said. “I have worked as both management and non-management, and have personally experienced intense burnout and, at times, job instability while on both sides of the coin. Perhaps most importantly, I have worked with exceptionally talented staffers and permalancers—editors, writers, photo editors, video editors, and more—who have felt no option but to leave because they cannot see a path towards greater career growth within the company and/or because they believe they are not being compensated fairly.”
Here’s what some of the Condé Nast Union workers had to say about the effort, per the Post:
“It comes down to prestige doesn’t pay the bills,” said Vanity Fair Web producer Jaime Archer, echoing the New Yorker Union rallying cry. “We love working here, and we want to keep working here. … If Condé wants to attract the best talent in the business, they have to stop relying on prestige and provide equitable pay and benefits.”
Christina Chaey, a senior food editor with Bon Appétit, said that the notion of needing to “pay dues” to work at an elite media house, in the form of long hours with meager pay, is outdated. She referenced the fictional “The Devil Wears Prada,” written by a former Vogue assistant. “The era of ‘a million girls would kill for that job’ is quickly coming to a close. And all for the better.”
“We publish pieces every day about how women can advocate for themselves, and how mothers need to be treated well, and pay discrepancies in the workplace,” said Glamour staff writer Jenny Singer. “There’s nothing more important than Condé practicing what it preaches in its pages.”
Former Vogue communications director Zara Rahim—who has previously said that she was the only woman of color in a leadership role and got a $60,000 pay bump after leaving the company—wrote about class divides at the company in a Twitter thread after the news broke, saying the union would be a “morally clarifying moment for privileged Condé employees.”
When asked about class differences between Condé Nast employees, the manager said: “To me, nothing has been more revelatory than spending the last two years discovering what certain staffers’ homes looked like on Zoom.”
When reached for comment, a Condé Nast spokesperson told Jezebel: “Today we were informed that some members of our Condé Nast teams are intending to form a union. We plan to have productive and thoughtful conversations with them over the coming weeks to learn more.”
This story has been updated to include a response from a Condé Nast spokesperson and comments from an anonymous Condé Nast manager.