The New Yorker Union's Statement on Half-Day Work Stoppage for Just Cause
Today, the New Yorker Union is undertaking a half-day work stoppage. From 9 A.M. to 1 P.M., union members will not participate in the production or the promotion of content for the print magazine or the Web site. We are withholding our labor to demand just cause in our contract, and in protest of management’s resistance to our proposal and refusal to provide us with information necessary for bargaining. If we do not receive a sufficient response from management on our just-cause proposal, we will be forced to take further action.
The proposal to which the company objects reads, “There shall be no discipline or dismissal without just and sufficient cause.” Just cause is an essential worker protection and among the core reasons we organized our union. A just-cause provision guarantees due process, promotes equity and accountability, and creates consistent, transparent standards. It provides workers recourse, protects us from capricious managers, and empowers us to speak up about things like salary disparities and editorial missteps without fear of retaliation.
This moment of cultural reckoning requires honest, challenging conversations about the work that we do—especially at companies that have a record of unfairness (like Condé Nast), that are governed by largely unwritten rules and expectations (like The New Yorker), and that are helmed by mostly white leadership (like both). Just cause allows those conversations to happen.
Our bosses insist that just cause would erode editorial standards, and, in doing so, they insult our colleagues at NewsGuild-represented outlets, like the New York Times and The New Republic, where just cause is a contract cornerstone. Management claims that just cause poses an existential threat to The New Yorker, thus pitting the interests of the publication directly against the interests of the people who make it. Management has also repeatedly invoked the spectre of arbitration (a last step in some discipline-related disputes), arguing that the company’s operations are too intricate for a third party to assess; meanwhile, Condé Nast has hired a union-busting law firm, Proskauer Rose, as a third party to investigate its workers’ allegations of discrimination.
Our managers have proposed an “editorial exception” that invalidates the very concept of just cause. This loophole would permit summary dismissal for any reason that management deems relevant to “editorial standards”—standards that, despite our requests for information, management has refused to articulate. The problem here is clear. If editorial standards are wholly undefined, it’s difficult to know when they’ve been violated, and even more difficult for a staffer to address the issue. Just cause, far from diminishing standards, insures their fair application.
As the past few weeks have shown, racism, abuse, and exploitation often go unchecked at Condé Nast. The New Yorker is not exempt from these dynamics, and, as the first and largest union at Condé Nast, we intend to raise the bar for all of our colleagues. We care deeply about this publication; we prove every day that we are dedicated to upholding the highest editorial and professional standards. We call on The New Yorker’s management to show the same commitment to its workers that we show to our work. We demand a contract that reflects the value of our labor and the principles in our pages. The foundation of that contract is just cause—no exceptions.
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