Condé Nast Staff Protest Layoffs
On January 23rd, 2024, over 400 employees at the iconic publisher Condé Nast staged a 24-hour walkout strike in front of the company’s One World Trade Center offices in New York City. The strike was in protest of layoffs announced back on November 1st, 2023 that blindsided many loyal employees.
Condé Nast is home to some of the most prestigious and recognizable magazines in the world, including Vogue, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, GQ, Bon Appétit, and Wired. Its staff has long been composed of some of the top creative talent in the publishing industry. However, with digital disruption shaking up the media landscape over the past decade, even this once untouchable empire has had to make difficult business decisions.
The layoffs announced on November 1st cut deep, with around 100 employees let go. For many of those left behind, it felt like the end of an era. Morale has been low ever since across Condé Nast’s offices, according to insiders. There’s a sense that management cares more about profits than people these days.
Outpouring of Anger and Fear Among Loyal Staff
The strike on January 23rd gave an outlet for long-simmering anger, fear and uncertainty among employees. Over 400 Condé Nast workers picketed with signs reading “We Make Magazines. We Deserve Job Security” and “People Over Profit.” There was a genuine sense of camaraderie and solidarity on the line.
“We love our work and our publications, but we can’t stay silent about the disrespect this company has shown us,” said one striking writer for Bon Appetit. Other employees echoed the frustration over poor treatment. There’s a sense that Condé Nast doesn’t value or appreciate its staff despite their role in creating such iconic brands.
Ongoing Tensions Around Union Contract
Part of the strike was also focused on continued difficulties negotiating a fair union contract. Around 650 editorial employees at Condé Nast unionized back in 2022 with the Writer’s Guild of America, East. However, after over a year, management still hasn’t come to an agreement with the union.
Sticking points include job security protections, diversity standards, wages, and control over intellectual property. Many employees feel the company aims to water down or sidestep addressing these issues rather than take them seriously.
The strike put pressure on Condé Nast management to come back to negotiations with a fairer offer that respects what the union has called for around diversity, compensation, workload protections and other issues core to maintaining the talented staff that built its brands.
What Does This Mean for Condé Nast’s Future?
Condé Nast faces challenging times ahead. Digital disruption has upturned the whole media industry, and even top brands need to adapt. However, that doesn’t have to mean turning their backs on loyal talent.
Employees at the picket line warned that mass layoffs and sidelining union contracts could damage both morale and Condé Nast’s reputation as a premier publisher. If top talent leaves due to poor treatment or uncertainty, the quality of magazines like Vogue and Wired may start to decline.
Many industry insiders feel Condé Nast needs to balance responsible budget decisions with respect and care for the people who make the company great. That starts with negotiating a fair contract that dignifies the essential labor of employees. It also means better communication, transparency and inclusion of staff voices in difficult decisions.
By listening to workers concerns instead of dismissing them, Condé Nast executives have an opportunity to chart a path through industry uncertainty without gutting the heart of their organization. The iconic magazines and websites tens of millions of readers love can continue thriving, while also providing good jobs creatives are proud of.
Whether management rises to meet this challenge remains to be seen. But after the passionate strike on January 23rd, they can no longer claim ignorance about staff frustration. Employees made their voices loud and clear – they demand and deserve better.