Yesterday, after two and a half years of negotiating with magazine management and just hours after Bernie Sanders announced his support for its members, New York magazine’s union announced it had “finally (finally!!!!!!) reached an agreement in principle with management” for the first time in the publication’s 54-year history.
“More to come soon, but for now we are so incredibly proud of and grateful for our incredible members,” the union tweeted, “(and Bernie).”
The union’s 130-plus editorial workers have actualized in an agreement the bargaining power accrued across the NewsGuild of New York—which also represents workers at the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Daily Beast, BuzzFeed News, and the Nation. And it comes as corporate consolidation accelerates across digital publishing. Vox Media, which owns New York magazine, announced it’s buying Group Nine Media; the combined company is expected to make more than $700 million in revenue and $100 million in pretax profit this year, the Times reports. That’s a massive empire whose workers are already seeking seats at the table.
And with consolidation’s rise—BuzzFeed gobbled up HuffPost, and Vice Media acquired Refinery29—unions stand to both gain and lose increasingly. Sanders’ support has become familiar fare in that story arc, and media shops continue to leverage his tweets and bring to bear the full force of his 15.5 million followers.
A classic in the Sanders canon was his 2019 tweet skewering media dingus Jim Spanfeller, the widely despised and journalistically illiterate CEO of G/O Media, which owns Gizmodo, Jezebel, The Root, The Onion, and other sites: “I stand with the former @Deadspin workers who decided not to bow to the greed of private equity vultures like @JimSpanfeller,” Sanders wrote, naming the executive most synonymous with sparking the exodus of highly regarded editors and reporters, the bruising of beloved media brands, and the shelling out of once-great platforms.
Under Spanfeller, The Root in particular has seen more than two-thirds of its phenomenally talented staff leave, and A.V. Club staff was stunned last week to see hiring notices posted online for their own jobs, a corporate tactic to force them to move offices across the country. “This is the kind of greed that is destroying journalism,” Sanders had said of Spanfeller.
But while Sanders boosts and bemoans plenty of media outfits, and has endorsed Starbucks unions, Amazon workers, and custodians’ unions, what unites these stories is not their loudest political supporter. It’s their shared recognition that a theory of labor is tenable: Workers unionize when they see that unions work.
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