The entire staff of Minneapolis agency Periscope has walked off the job in protest of the actions of parent company Quad.
Yesterday, 13 staffers—including Nathan Young, Periscope group strategy director and co-founder of 600 & Rising—walked off the job at Periscope, citing interference from parent company Quad in the agency’s communications around Black Lives Matter as well as concerns over the release of allegedly misleading diversity data. Quad claims it now supports the agency’s use of the “Black Lives Matter” phrase.
After Periscope employees initially walked off on Wednesday, the shop’s copy editing department, in a show of solidarity, joined Young and his colleagues in the walkout.
Today, the entire staff of Periscope walked off the job in unity, citing Quad’s slow action on addressing Periscope’s support of Black Lives Matter on social media, including weeks of preventing the agency from using that phrase in its statements, a policy Quad says it has since changed after “appropriate time for assessment.”
Ultimately, the agency posted a Black Lives Matter statement on its social channels, pointing out its solidarity with the employees that walked out yesterday.
Periscope was purchased by Wisconsin-based Quad in 2018. One of the issues raised in a statement from the agency (which can be read in full below) was that “As an agency, we have prided ourselves on our fierce independence. Since our acquisition, we have lost that independence. Today, we are reclaiming it.”
The statement follows a series of demands by Periscope employees that walked out yesterday, including mandatory diversity and inclusion training for all levels of leadership and management, that Quad ceases interference in Periscope’s “editorial independence” and the release of full, accurate diversity data for Periscope in line with 600 & Rising’s reporting guidelines. Quad evp Eric Ashworth told Adweek yesterday that Quad is working to address all these issues and now appreciates what Black Lives Matter “stands for as a movement and as a phrase.”
Quad, in a statement to Adweek, issued an apology to Periscope employees and client reiterating “its commitment to help end systemic racism.”
“We respect the Periscope employees who have spoken through their actions and continue to do so this week,” said Quad CEO Joel Quadracci in reference to the walkout. “We are on a journey, and I look forward to continuing to adjust our efforts along the way. We have been asked to listen, and we are listening very intently. We are taking decisive actions and reinforcing what we know to be true: Black Lives Matter.”
Periscope had two all-hands meetings yesterday, one of which started at 9:30 p.m. local time, which lasted close to two-and-a-half hours and included Quadracci and evp Eric Ashworth. According to Young, Quadracci opened the meeting with a long statement that he characterized as “one of those non-apology apologies.”
Young said that he confronted Quadracci on the call, reminding him of a previous conversation where he and other Periscope employees of color discussed the Black Lives Matter issue with Quad leadership.
“We let him know that the things [Quadracci] was saying were insufficient,” said Young, noting that every person on the call had Black Lives Matter as their virtual background.
After the call ended, Young and other leaders, including Persicope CCO Peter Nicholson, discussed the next steps, resulting in the letter being drafted.
“I think we were just giving [Quad] the benefit of the doubt for far too long,” said Young. “It came to a head with the walkoff. Nobody was condoning the behavior or the stance of Quad at any point. So, in that sense, [actions by Persicope employees] didn’t really surprise me. Minneapolis is a progressive city. Periscope is filled with people with good hearts and good intentions. And there is not a single person that I know of at Periscope who does not believe that Black lives matter.”