Employees across the video, editorial, design, social and photo departments at Hearst Magazines’ 24 brands announced on Monday that they are moving to unionize with the Writers Guild of America East (WGAE).
Gathering under the name Hearst Magazines Media Union, staff said they would work with management to advocate for better wages, establish editorial standards and prioritize diversity in hiring leadership.
“We are incredibly proud to work at Hearst and represent its legacy and values,” the group tweeted. “We believe the most logical path to ensure the company’s continued excellence and leading position in the industry is to unionize to form a more equitable workplace.”
WGAE represents many NYC-based digital media organizations, including Vice, G/O Media, Salon and HuffPo. In recent years, facing turmoil in the industry, staffers at many news organizations have unionized including Vox Media, Refinery29 and BuzzFeed News.
WGAE was aware of Hearst staffers’ intent to unionize for over a year, during which time the organization has been helping them build an organizing committee and talk to their colleagues, said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGAE.
The union would include two dozen brands at Hearst Magazines: Best Products, Bicycling, Car and Driver, Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Delish, Elle, Elle Decor, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar, House Beautiful, Marie Claire, Men’s Health, The Oprah Magazine, Popular Mechanics, Prevention, Road & Track, Runner’s World, Seventeen, Town & Country, Veranda, Woman’s Day and Women’s Health.
In all, there are between 550 to 600 employees who could unionize, Peterson said, declining to say how many had already signed onto the effort. If successful, Hearst Magazines would represent the singe largest unionized entity within the WGAE.
“A question we ask ourselves and Hearst was: ‘Are there unifying themes? Is this just a random collection of titles?'” Peterson said. “There are common issues. They do have concerns they want to address at the bargaining table.”
The exec team at Hearst Magazines recently got an overhaul under president Troy Young, who has been in the role for over a year. Less than a month after Young was named, Joanna Coles quit as chief content officer and was replaced by Kate Lewis.
Requests for comment to Hearst Magazines were not immediately returned.
At competitor Condé Nast, The New Yorker, Ars Technica and Pitchfork unionized under NewsGuild of New York. None of the magazine brands at Meredith Corporation have recently unionized, though production staff at Time Inc. and People magazine are part of a union.
“[Unionizing] shows the stability and instability of the industry,” Peterson said. “It’s stable enough that people say, ‘This is what I want to do,’ and unstable enough for people to say, ‘I need some protection to do it.'”