Several well-known publications at one of the largest publishers in the country are forming an editorial union.
Nearly 100 employees of Iowa-based publisher Meredith, including staff at magazines Entertainment Weekly, Martha Stewart Living, and Shape, along with streaming network PeopleTV, have announced their intention to form a joint editorial union, partially as a bulwark against cuts the company implemented during the coronavirus pandemic.
“This is the time, now more than ever we need to speak up, have a seat at the table, and be a part of decision making,” Maureen Lenker, a writer at Entertainment Weekly, said in a brief telephone call with The Daily Beast.
Lenker told The Daily Beast that employees at multiple publications began considering forming a union after online staff at the entertainment publication People announced their intention to unionize earlier this year with the News Guild, a journalists’ union that has chapters at companies including The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Daily Beast, among others.
Employees also felt a renewed urgency after Meredith laid off staff and instituted pay cuts across the company following the massive advertising downturn amid the COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year. The People magazine publisher cut wages for 60 percent of staff, instituting a 15-percent reduction for more than 2,000 employees, and 20-to-40-percent reductions for higher-paid staff.
In a statement, the NewsGuild said the union seeks “job security, fair wage increases, affordable and equal access to benefits, a demonstrable commitment to diversity and inclusion, and transparent editorial standards.”
Meredith employees are the latest in a wave of newsroom staffers around the country that have unionized over the past several years and join a small number— including magazine publisher Hearst and millennial digital publisher Bustle Digital Group—that have chosen to unionize company-wide rather than form separate unions at each individual publication.
The development may not come as welcome news to Meredith management, which did not seem pleased with other recent unionization efforts at the company.
Earlier this year, the Des Moines-based publisher said that it was opposed to voluntarily recognizing the People magazine union. In a statement, the company emphasized its need for corporate flexibility and described the NewsGuild as an intrusive third party.
“We prefer to communicate directly with our employees. We believe in transparent, ongoing dialogue without a third party intervening,” the company said, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “The media climate we’re operating in continues to rapidly evolve and change dramatically, and calls for a more creative, nimble and flexible operating culture. While we recognize the federal right of employees to join a union, we believe it is imperative that each employee exercise their federal right of a secret ballot election and, for this reason, it is our policy to not voluntarily recognize a union, as to do so would bypass our employees’ democratic right to vote.”
In a Thursday afternoon statement to The Daily Beast, Meredith reiterated its previous position on unionization.