(Bloomberg) -- Condé Nast’s New Yorker magazine will hire its subcontracted fact-checkers and editors as direct employees, a change that comes amid ongoing contract negotiations with the magazine’s newly unionized staff.
The 94-year-old title, which is known for literary and investigative journalism, is one of several Condé Nast publications that relies on subcontractors technically employed by a company called Global Employment Solutions.
Workers say they’ve pushed for the change throughout their union campaign. The company says it was already under consideration before they unionized with the NewsGuild in 2018. GES staff said they lacked paid holidays and vacation, received less generous health insurance and were excluded from some company events.
“We continually review our contingent staff and assess if particular roles should transition to staff or are appropriate to continue as freelance,” Condé Nast spokesman Joseph Libonati said. “We have been doing that across brands, not just at the New Yorker.”
GES declined to comment on individual client contracts but said their benefits comply with legal requirements.
Editorial staff said their subcontractor status encouraged them to work more and complain less in hopes of becoming full-fledged employees. Some who made that transition said it involved the surreal experience of undergoing Condé Nast corporate orientation, including touring the building, then going right back to the same work they had been doing.
Unions have found success recently at media companies, where the promise of prestige and exposure has long been used to attract talent at low pay or, in the case of unpaid interns, no wages at all. “Being paid in prestige isn’t something we should accept any longer,” said New Yorker staffer Natalie Meade, chair of the new union. “Prestige doesn’t pay the bills -- money does.”
The NewsGuild says its pressure also convinced the Los Angeles Times to convert subcontractors to employees and is pushing Condé Nast management to do the same at its Pitchfork brand as well.
“As our industry and our own business continues to evolve, we strive to make Condé Nast a place where employees are offered opportunities to learn, grow professionally, and be successful while fulfilling the needs of the business,” Libonati said.
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