Next week's New Yorker Festival just got a little less star-studded.
On Wednesday, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled out of their planned appearances at the festival, in an act of solidarity with unionised magazine staffers who are locked in a labour dispute with management.
At the heart of the dispute is the "just cause" clause, a labour protection that requires an employer to build a case for why an employee should be fired or disciplined. Union members are fighting to have the provision included in their contracts, but haven't been able to reach an agreement with management.
"The NewsGuild and The New Yorker Union are fighting for basic dignity on the job and we stand with them," Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Ms Warren said in a joint statement provided to CNN. "We will not cross the picket line and attend the festival unless The New Yorker leadership agrees to the union's demands — they should do so immediately."
Former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who was scheduled to speak at the festival next week, also canceled his appearance on Wednesday. He explained in a tweet, "As a strong union supporter, I can't in good conscience cross a picket line to take part in the festival. I hope the parties are able to quickly negotiate a fair agreement."
As a strong union supporter, I can’t in good conscience cross a picket line to take part in the festival. I hope the parties are able to quickly negotiate a fair agreement. https://t.co/U9HbHQGOLb— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) September 30, 2020
Ms Warren and Ms Ocasio-Cortez were originally slated to appear on October 5 as keynote speakers for the annual festival, which is being held virtually for the first time amid the coronavirus pandemic. But members of the New Yorker Union have a virtual picket line planned that night, and they sent a letter to Ms Warren and Ms Ocasio-Cortez asking them to reconsider their appearances.
The union's letter to the politicians cited their historic support for unions and workers. It read, in part: "The leadership that you both display on issues like labour rights and corporate responsibility brings hope at a time when it's hard to come by. Because of your strong support for unions and workers, we thought it important to let you know that The New Yorker is in a state of labour unrest."
Ms Ocasio-Cortez pledged her support in a tweet on Wednesday, writing, "Love the @NewYorker, but @ewarren and I don't cross picket lines."
A spokesperson for The New Yorker said the magazine was eager to reach an agreement with the union. In a statement, they said: "Like many other media outlets, The New Yorker strongly believes that its editorial standards should not be determined by arbitrators outside of The New Yorker, and we look forward to our continued discussions regarding just cause in the context of bargaining. We remain eager to reach a fair agreement as quickly as possible."
Other New Yorker Festival events have not been effected at this time. The event, which runs from October 5 to 11, is also scheduled to include appearances from Dr Anthony Fauci, Chris Rock, Fiona Apple, Margaret Atwood, Malcolm Gladwell, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld.