Outfest Denies Layoffs Are Tied to Unionization Efforts, Names Zackery Alexzander Stephens Acting Executive Director

“Outfest is decidedly pro-union,” the LGBTQ film fest’s board of directors say

Zackery Alexzander Stephens of Outfest
Zackery Alexzander Stephens (Getty Images)

After five staffers who sought to unionize were laid off, the Outfest Board of Directors announced Thursday that it has named board member Zackery Alexzander Stephens as acting executive director

“It is with great sadness that we have to make layoffs, but these are in no way connected to the staff’s desire to unionize,” a statement shared with TheWrap read. “Staff was notified that the organization had planned for a reduction of the workforce prior to any communication of unionizing.”

A PR rep for Outfest did not comment on a Deadline report that executive director Damien S. Navarro, who has held the post since July 2019, is taking a 45-day leave from the nonprofit organization.

During this year’s “Hot Labor Summer,” several organizations have unionized or sought to form a union, including writers at the MTV series “Ridiculousness” and staffers at Walt Disney Animation.

“Outfest is decidedly pro-union,” the statement continued. “The work our organization accomplishes wouldn’t be possible without Hollywood unions. As a nonprofit Board and organization, we believe in empowering LGBTQIA+ storytellers which includes our Outfest staff.”

The statement went on to say that the fest’s leadership “does not have the authority to do what Local 9003 demands – voluntarily recognize – without a vote of our Board,” and that a special meeting of the Board is currently being scheduled.

The release also emphasized that Outfest “is dedicated to facilitating a culture of respect, trust, and transparency for both staff and our community. The organization’s core mission is to champion queer storytellers and create opportunity, which is reflected in their programming and events.”

Outfest 2023 was held in July and showcased films including the teen sex comedy “Bottoms” and the documentary “Chasing Chasing Amy,” which explores the legacy of Kevin Smith’s 1997 dramedy in which a lesbian (Joey Lauren Adams) falls for a straight guy (Ben Affleck).


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