Hearst writers are latest in media shift to unionization

Elle's editor-in-chief, Nina Garcia, Sarah Paulson, Keira Knightley, Mia Farrow, Lady Gaga, Angela Bassett, Shonda Rhimes, Charlize Theron and Yara Shahidi attend the magazine's 25th Women in Hollywood Celebration  in Los Angeles in  2018.
(Kevin Mazur / Getty Images for Elle Magazine)

The staff of Hearst Magazines, including those at Elle, Cosmopolitan and Men’s Health, have voted to unionize, joining the growing ranks of media industry groups seeking better employment terms.

A majority of the 500 writers and video, design, photo and social staff members across 24 digital and print brands said Monday they had signed union cards with the Writers Guild of America, East in a bid for better pay, leave and diversity in editorial ranks.

Hearst, based in New York, has major interests in cable television, including stakes in A&E, Lifetime and ESPN; a string of television stations; newspapers, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle; and 300 magazines around the world.

The new Hearst union joins a throng of digital print brands that have formed unions in the face of a rapidly consolidating business, where cost-cutting has eroded compensation and job protections for writers.

The WGA, East now represents about 6,000 writers, including those at Fast Co., Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, Vice and Vox Media. Staffers at many newspapers, including the L.A. Times, have also moved to unionize. The L.A. Times Guild, which represents about 475 members, is part of the NewsGuild sector of the Communications Workers of America.

“Media’s rapidly changing landscape means it’s more important than ever for us to have a say in the conditions of our employment,” the new Hearst Magazines Media Union said in a statement, adding that it expected Hearst Magazines, like peers Condé Nast and Fast Co., would recognize the union.

“We care deeply about the work we do at Hearst and its reputation within the media industry, and we believe we deserve a seat at the table and a say in how we are compensated and treated in the workplace.”

The Hearst union said it is seeking improved diversity in editorial ranks, a say in decisions that affect the business and clearer management structures and wage tiers. It wants more competitive salaries, with mechanisms for raises and cost-of-living increases, parental leave and affordable healthcare. The group also called for a clear division between editorial and advertising.


“Hearst’s union drive comes as the media industry continues to consolidate, as companies become platform-agnostic and offer content on paper, over the airwaves, and online,” Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGA, East, said in a statement.

Spokespeople for Hearst did not immediately respond to requests for comment.