Anti-Union Initiatives Instigate Work Stoppage at Pitchfork

The American online-media-magazine Pitchfork is undergoing work stoppages in protest against the anti-union initiatives being taken by the publication and its parent company, magazine publisher Condé Nast. The stoppages also revolve around the lack of diversity within the publication and the unresponsive management to staff trying to address these issues.

The editorial staff refused to publish any new content on the website and let all social media go dark on Thursday, June 18 for four hours beginning at 9 a.m. This stoppage was done to draw attention to the targeted lay-off of senior editor Stacey Anderson, the union chair and the only senior editor who was a person of color, according to the Pitchfork’s union statement. The staff of the Pitchfork worked hard to try to find an alternative to the lay-off of Stacey Anderson and presented a plan to Condé Nast and Pitchfork management (Editor-in-Chief Puja Patel and Managing Editor Amy Phillips) as a way to keep jobs intact while achieving their target savings for this year.

Pitchfork unionized last year with the New York chapter of the Newsguild. The NewsGuild was founded back in 1933 by newspaper journalists in hopes of not only improving wages and working conditions, but to also help uphold honest and quality work from journalists and the news industry’s business practices. Newsguild currently represents a number of other unions that Condé Nast publications owns like Wired and The New Yorker, The New York Times and The Daily Beast.

Pitchfork employees have not only stopped publishing but have also sent criticizing letters to people like editor-in-chief Puja Patel and CEO Roger Lynch about the lack of respect for employees. A lot of the unrest from employees comes from the lack of diversity within the publication and Condé Nast’s alleged racist treatment of staffers of color. The staff proposed that the publication should require that 50 percent of prospective job candidates who are brought in for an interview should come from minority backgrounds and, according to Pitchfork’s union statement, Condé Nast and Pitchfork counsel rejected their proposal because “for certain positions it’s hard to find qualified applicants from underrepresented backgrounds” and “not every job is created equal.”

Pitchfork’s union statement expanded on this saying,”When it comes to diversity and inclusion, Condé Nast has been broken for a long time. This includes Pitchfork. Stacey’s removal would be the second layoff of a Senior Editor of color in under 18 months. We need to change the culture of Pitchfork and hold management accountable for their decisions. We also need to acknowledge our own complicity in these systemic failures so we, as coworkers, can improve.”

Condé Nast has been holding town hall meetings over the last few weeks to address concerns but also has given vague warnings to staff about unionizing journalists losing their jobs for being in unions. CEO Lynch sent an email to the all-staff dismissing the usefulness of unionization saying, “some may believe that joining a union will protect their job, unfortunately, it’s just not the case. We all have seen the thousands of journalists who have lost their jobs over the last many months. The headwinds that the media industry is experiencing right now, combined with COVID-19, are just too strong for any union,” according to the The Daily Beast article.

Pitchfork’s union statement explains their demands saying they want the targeted lay-off of  their union chair Stacey Anderson’s reversed and for Condé Nast to agree to their counter-proposal to achieve both parties’ goals and re-center attention on other issues. One of the biggest issues they want worked on is making sure Pitchfork and other Condé Nast brands uproot all their pre-existing racist power structures.

For more information on the Work Stoppage at Pitchfork please read Pitchfork’s union statement.

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