Hearst Magazine’s Union Demands Good Faith Contract Talks in Open Letter to Company

“We know what we are worth, and we will not continue to settle for subpar wages,” union says

hearst building
Getty Images

After two years of stalled negotiations and legal battles, the bargaining committee for Hearst Magazine’s union has released an open letter through Writers Guild of America East demanding that the company enter good faith negotiations on a contract.

“Your counter-proposals on our salary minimums are 10s of thousands of dollars lower than our initial proposals. And like your initial proposals on annual salary increases, they are also woefully behind industry standards,” the letter read. “We know what we are worth, and we will not continue to settle for subpar wages at one of the country’s preeminent magazine publishers, especially given Hearst Magazines’ record profits over the past few years.”

Hearst Media Union represents around 500 employees spanning 28 publications, including Cosmpolitan and Esquire. The union was successfully formed after a National Labor Relations Board election in July 2020, one that was held after a nine-month legal battle in which Hearst refused to voluntarily recognize the union and its motion to break the union into six separate bargaining units was dismissed by the NLRB.

But since then, contract negotiations have remained strained, with Hearst Media Union listing multiple criticisms of the company’s proposed economic package. The union says that Hearst Magazines’ proposal pays workers not living in New York or California 10% less, refuses to pay more to workers filling in for staff on parental leave or include extra pay for sensitivity reads or translations, which are key to the union’s push to expand diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the company.

“Today, our committee members are presenting a complete version of our economic proposals in response to management’s counters. We have meticulously crafted this language to move in your direction whenever possible in the spirit of reaching a deal by this fall. We demand that you do the same,” the letter concludes. “We cannot create this contract alone and need management to meet us in the middle to push us toward a fair, equitable contract in a timely fashion.”

TheWrap has reached out to Hearst Magazines for comment and will update with any reply.

WGA East has significantly expanded its organizing of digital media outlets since negotiating its first contract with Gizmodo Media Group — then known as Gawker Media — in 2015. The guild has also organized unions at Vox Media, Vice, Huffpost, Slate, The Onion and The Intercept.

Currently, negotiations are also underway at several other media outlets, including at Bustle Digital Group, where contract negotiations have been ongoing since November 2020 with Bustle’s union and management at an impasse over the extent to which the contract’s proposed economic package adheres to part-time writers, whom make up a significant portion of the staffs of BDG’s sites. BDG has told TheWrap that it is intent on completing a contract in good faith.