New Yorker Staff Demand Higher Wages

Fellow media members and lawmakers supported them online

On Thursday, members of The New Yorker Union undertook a 24-hour work stoppage to demand better wages. Many subscribers and supporters, including the recently memed Senator Bernie Sanders, took to Twitter to share their surprise that such a mustache-twirling, tophat-wielding prestige publication would not recognize its staff’s union.

“Today, the New Yorker Union is undertaking a twenty-four-hour work stoppage. Between 6 A.M. on Thursday, January 21st, and 6 A.M. on Friday, January 22nd, union members will not participate in the production or the promotion of material for the print magazine or the Web site,” said union representatives in a statement. “We are withholding our labor to demand fair wages and a transparent, equitable salary structure, and to protest management’s unacceptable response to our wage proposal and their ongoing failure to bargain in good faith. These negotiations have gone on long enough. If management continues to reject basic concepts like competitive salary minimums and guaranteed annual increases, and refuses to swiftly bargain toward a contract that reflects the value of our members’ work, we will take further action.”

“I stand with @newyorkerunion workers walking out today and fighting for a first union contract,” tweeted Sanders. “The New Yorker should sit down with its workers and negotiate a fair contract in good faith.” Rep. Rashida Tlaib and Rep. Jamaal Bowman also shared their support on social media.

The New Yorker Union has been working toward a collective bargaining agreement since 2018. You’ll remember hearing about them back in September when Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled out of The New Yorker Festival in solidarity with the union’s digital picket line. At that time, union members were pushing for a “just cause” provision in their contract, setting a standard that must be met in order to fire workers. The magazine agreed to the provision under pressure.

The New York Times reports that the union represents over 100 workers. Among their demands is a $65,000 salary minimum and annual guaranteed pay increases, the response to which was “egregious.” The union’s website has a pretty detailed study of staff’s salaries and the disparities across race and gender, which cites that a typical media worker in New York City earned $67,271 annually in 2020. However, despite substantial tenures, the median salaries of editorial assistants and proofreaders are $10,000-$15,000 below that average. On top of that, the “discrepancy between men’s and women’s median pay is $4,000; among employees of color, the gap between men’s and women’s median pay is closer to $7,000.”

“watching the highest paid, biggest platformed new yorker writers stay totally mum on the people who copy edit, fact check, illustrate & print them,” tweeted writer Talia Lavin with a gif of Arya Stark.

“I loved working at The New Yorker more than I could possibly say, which is I why I stayed for 6 wonderful years. But it took me years to dig myself out of the credit card debt I took on while I worked there, just so I could live,” said writer Kelly Stout on Twitter. “Solidarity with these incredible workers!”

“A New Yorker fact-checker once roamed the east village to check i had attributed a specific gargoyle to the correct block. This was web content! Give them the world,” tweeted The New Republic’s Jo Livingstone.

The New Yorker is one of many magazines and media organizations to unionize. Fellow Condé Nast publications, Pitchfork and Wired, have unionized, along with New York Magazine, Vice and Refinery29, as part of the News Guild of New York, Local 31003 CWA.

“I’m forever grateful for the work @viceunion did before I came to VICE,” tweeted Vice senior staff writer Alex Zaragosa. “They ensured I got paid a livable wage upon hiring. Without that I couldn’t have taken the job or see my career grow.”

“Media salaries are a joke, especially in NYC where the cost of living is so exorbitant. VICE hired me at $40k in 2015; when I got laid off in 2019, I was at $52k—and that’s only thanks to union-mandated raises. Salaries there are only half decent now because we fought for it,” tweeted Teen Vogue’s Kim Kelly. “I remember when I tried to negotiate for just $2k more I was told, ‘Sorry, we don’t have the money.’ A couple weeks later, Shane Smith bought the Entourage mansion.” Kelly noted in a reply to her tweet that, at her $52,000 salary, she was “the lowest-paid editor in the entire company.”

Many non-media members and subscribers to the magazine echoed the union’s message on Twitter.

“Hey @NewYorker – This subscriber of 35 years stands with the workers,” wrote user @CelineGoBoating.

“I’d gladly pay a higher subscription price if that’s what it takes,” tweeted @thori. “45k is too low to live in NYC.”

New Yorker

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Katie Smith

Katie Smith is a Philadelphia-based writer. Find her on Instagram @saddy_yankee for cat pics.

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