Vogue, Glamour, and Vanity Fair writers tackle exploitative bosses
Conde Nast unit of Newspaper Guild, CWA

NEW YORK —Writers at Vogue, Glamour, Vanity Fair, and other glossy Conde Nast magazines just gave workers yet another outstanding example of how to use leverage to win at the bargaining table —via the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Annual Gala in Manhattan.

This shows that it’s not just industrial workers, such as Auto Workers and Teamsters, who know how to successfully use pressure points to triumph over their exploitative and rich bosses.

Having bargained for months for a first contract after voting union in September 2022, and suffering layoffs of at least 100 colleagues just before Christmas, the writers, members of the Conde Nast unit of The News Guild Of New York, took to the streets to take their case to the public.

Their signs were inventive: “The devil wears sunglasses when she lays you off” was a play on the film The Devil Wears Prada and Vogue Editor Anna Wintour’s always-prominent shades. Others were “Anna wears Prada; Workers get nada” and “Now is the Wintour of our discontent.”

If you get the idea that Wintour, whom Conde Nast imported from the United Kingdom, and who brought classic British upper-class attitudes with her, was a convenient target, you’re right.

Management stuck to its guns, including the layoffs and skimpy-to-nonexistent raises until the annual Met Gala loomed. That high-profile high-society fashion fundraiser draws celebrities, photographers, and red carpet coverage galore. But gala participants made clear they wouldn’t cross a picket line.

And a supermajority of the unit’s members, from all its glossy magazines, committed to walking out. So management finally got down to real bargaining, and at 3 am on May 6, the day of the Gala, the two sides reached a tentative first contract. The show, as the old saying goes, must—and did—go on.

“We made a commitment to do whatever it takes to get our contract,” Mark Alan Burger, the Vanity Fair social media manager, and a bargaining team member, told The News Guild Of New York. A vote on the tentative deal will occur the week starting May 12.

“Our pledge to take any action necessary to get our contract, including walking off the job ahead of the Met Gala, and all the actions we took this week, pushed the company to really negotiate. We made every effort this week to meet with them and get this contract completed and we’re thrilled to say we did it.”

The contract includes $3.6 million in total wage increases, 14 weeks—up from 12—of fully paid parental leave, and “just cause” protections against random discipline and firings, like those that happened before Christmas. The permanent two-tier wage scale is gone and subcontracted employees will become full staffers.

And given the long hours and erratic schedules for workers at such glossy Conde Nast magazines, there’s guaranteed comp time after 40 hours of work per week, plus hybrid work protections i.e. working from home, and an expanded paid bereavement policy.

The laid-off workers come back to their old jobs through contract ratification, then get eight weeks of severance pay, including the same wage hikes the remaining workers receive, along with payouts of unused vacation time, among other wins.

They also get a $1000 lump sum payment, three months of COBRA coverage, or a $2000 payment for workers ineligible for COBRA. And there won’t be any more layoffs through July 31.

“What this contract win clearly illustrates is that when we as union workers show our steadfast commitment to standing with one another and refusing to back down, we win,” said Anthony Napoli, The News Guild Of New York’s senior representative, chief negotiator, and Secretary/Treasurer.

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Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.