WGA East Members Overwhelmingly Ratify First-Ever Contract With Hearst Magazines Media

Members of the WGA East employed by Hearst Magazines Media have overwhelmingly ratified what the guild is calling a “groundbreaking” first contract that covers some 560 writers, producers and editors at 28 of the publishing giant’s brands, including Esquire, Cosmopolitan, Harper’s Bazaar, Town & Country, Good Housekeeping, Popular Mechanics, Car & Driver, Oprah Daily, Seventeen, Elle, Redbook and Woman’s Day.

“After more than two years of negotiations,” the guild said, “the ratification brings to a close the campaign for a first union contract with the infamously anti-union media conglomerate.” The deal was reached last month after a threatened strike, a half-day walkout and rally in March, and the union’s filing of four unfair labor practices charges against the company.

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“The WGA East continues to build power for professional writers,” said Lowell Peterson, the guild’s executive director. “The Hearst contract is a prime example of what can be achieved through collective action. And as the Hearst contract demonstrates, the WGA East is a union ready to fight for a strong union contract. This includes our members in film and television who are currently on strike until they can get a fair deal from the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers. We have recently won contracts and union recognition in our Freelance/TV/Streaming sector in nonfiction TV and podcasting, and we are building power in our Broadcast/Cable Streaming News sector at MSNBC and CBSN.  We are one union, standing together.”

According to the guild, the new contract includes “a major increase in salary minimums across all job titles, bringing the Hearst Union in line with the industry standards set by the guild.” Minimum salaries for the lowest-tiered staffers employed in California and New York City will go up by $15,000 a year, increasing the base pay from $45,000 to $60,000 for some employees. Annual guaranteed wage increases will also be given to staffers at all 28 of the company’s brands.

According to the guild, other highlights from the contract include:

  • Locked in 401(k) matching at the same rate for the length of the contract.

  • Four weeks minimum severance for all employees regardless of tenure plus two weeks’ notice or pay in lieu of notice (for a total of six weeks minimum), or two weeks of severance for every year worked at the company plus notice pay, whichever is higher;

  • Hearst cannot terminate a bargaining unit member without sufficient cause

  • Laid off employees who apply for another job at Hearst will be guaranteed an interview for up to six months after the layoff;

  • Established an Equity Committee co-chaired by management and union members, to be funded $25,000 annually;

  • Established contractual protections for current time off, family leave;

  • Established contractual protection against discrimination in the workplace;

  • Established anti-harassment accountability measures;

  • The company must inform the union of changes in the in-office/remote work policy with at least 30 days advance notice and give opportunity to bargain;

  • Eliminated mandatory arbitration for harassment cases.

The union’s bargaining committee said that it is “thrilled to report we have officially ratified our first collective bargaining agreement with an overwhelming majority of our 560-member unit voting to ratify. This contract will establish and codify many important workplace benefits and protections, including industry-standard wage floors, minimum guaranteed annual wage increases, just cause, gender-neutral bathrooms, a path to reporting discrimination, and a diversity committee to help hold the company accountable to more equitable hiring practices. After spending over two years at the bargaining table, we’re looking forward to working under the new reality of our unionized workplace.”

In addition to Hearst Magazines, the guild’s Online Media Sector includes BDG, Chalkbeat, Committee to Protect Journalists, Fast Company, FT Specialist, Future PLC, Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, Inc., Jewish Currents, NowThis, Onion Inc., Refinery29, Salon, Slate, Talking Points Memo, The Dodo, The Intercept, Thrillist, VICE and Vox Media.

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