Hearst Magazine Employees Ratify Union Contract With WGA East

Writers Guild of America East announced on Thursday that its members at Hearst Magazines have voted to ratify its first labor contract, ending a two-year struggle to unionize staffers at the media conglomerate in the face of management resistance that was met with writer walkouts and formal charges of unfair labor practice.

“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,” said the Hearst Magazines Union Bargaining Committee in a statement.

“After spending over two years at the bargaining table, we’re looking forward to working under the new reality of our unionized workplace,” the statement continued.

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The contract includes an annual pay increase of $15,000 for the lowest-tiered staffers working in New York and California, along with other annual wage increases for all unionized staffers working at Hearst’s 28 publications, which include Cosmopolitan and Seventeen.

Additional 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 and two-weeks notice or pay in lieu of notice (for a total of six weeks minimum), or two weeks severance for every year worked at 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

  • Hearst 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, as well as non-competes

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Hearst Magazines Union was successfully formed by WGA East after a National Labor Relations Board election in July 2020, one that was held after a nine-month legal battle in which Hearst refused to voluntarily recognize the union and its motion to break the union into six separate bargaining units was dismissed by the NLRB.

But the unionization vote was just the beginning of the staffers’ struggle, as negotiations on a labor contract were stalled for well over a year. Even when talks did begin, the union accused Hearst management of not providing a good faith offer with its proposed contract.

The WGA East filed unfair labor practice charges with the NLRB on the union’s behalf four times, and walkouts were staged in March. A tentative deal was finally reached on April 28 after the union vowed to strike at the end of the month if an agreement was not reached.

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“The WGAE continues to build power for professional writers. 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,” said WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson in a statement.

“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,” Peterson added.

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