New Yorker Employees Stage Protest Outside Anna Wintour’s Townhouse

After more than two years of negotiations with the magazine’s parent company, Conde Nast, more than 100 demonstrators marched on the editorial director’s quiet block.,

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On Monday morning, union employees at The New Yorker unveiled a website that included their demands for higher pay and better job security, as well as the statement that they were “on the verge of a strike.”

On Tuesday evening, the employees marched from the campus of New York University to the nearby Greenwich Village home of Anna Wintour, the fashion icon, magazine editor, publishing executive and Manhattan power player who has become a symbol of Conde Nast, the corporate home of The New Yorker.

“Bosses wear Prada, workers get nada!” they chanted.

There were about 100 protesters in all, many of them fact checkers or editorial staff members who belong to The New Yorker Union, a group that started three years ago and is affiliated with the NewsGuild of New York.

The demonstrators included employees from two other Conde Nast publications with union representation — the digital publications Ars Technica and Pitchfork.

A few police officers looked on as the protesters marched in a loop outside Ms. Wintour’s darkened townhouse on the otherwise serene block of Sullivan Street. They carried signs that said, “You can’t eat prestige” and “Fair pay now” in The New Yorker’s distinctive typeface.

Genevieve Bormes, an associate covers editor at The New Yorker, said she made $53,000 annually after working at the magazine for more than five years. Her salary was $33,000 when she started in 2016, she said, adding that the wages offered by the magazine favored workers who had a financial cushion.

“People from a range of backgrounds can’t afford to work there,” Ms. Bormes said.

The protest was a sharp escalation in The New Yorker employees’ two-year fight with Conde Nast over wages, health care benefits and work-life issues.

The company had tried to stave it off in a Monday night email to union employees that said, “Targeting an individual’s private home and publicly sharing its location is not acceptable.” The union replied with a an email accusing the company of “what looks like an unlawful attempt to discourage protected concerted activity.”

Talks between The New Yorker Union and Conde Nast started at the end of 2018, shortly after more than 100 copy editors, fact checkers and other employees organized with the NewsGuild.

Some New Yorker workers make as little as $42,000 a year, according to the union. The union is seeking a base salary of $60,000 for its members.

In recent bargaining talks, the company offered a floor of $54,500, according to Natalie Meade, a fact checker and chair of the NewsGuild’s unit at the magazine. A Conde Nast spokeswoman said the company had made progress in recent negotiations, adding, “We hope to have a contract soon so that real wage increases find their way to our union employees.”

ImageDemonstrators marched from New York University to the Conde Nast executive's residential block.
Demonstrators marched from New York University to the Conde Nast executive’s residential block.Credit…John Taggart for The New York Times

Many New Yorker staff writers, including some of the magazine’s high-profile contributors, are considered freelancers and do not qualify to unionize under federal labor law. In the event of a strike, the union has asked all New Yorker contributors not to file articles or do other work for the magazine.

Shirley Nwangwa, a fact checker at The New Yorker since January, said of her colleagues: “They are able somehow to preserve their brilliance, despite the fact they are not making much money in one of the most expensive cities in the world.”

Vrinda Jagota, an associate social media manager at Pitchfork, said that the bargaining had taken too long and that Conde Nast leaders had been “slow at every turn.”

“I hope she hears us,” she said of Ms. Wintour.

Ms. Wintour’s authority has been challenged by rank-and-file employees and some colleagues since last spring, but that has not stopped her ascent.

A Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire since 2017, and someone who was celebrated and satirized by Meryl Streep in the 2006 film “The Devil Wears Prada,” Ms. Wintour started at Conde Nast as the editor of the American edition of Vogue more than three decades ago, back when print magazines and London-trained editors were all the rage.

She was named the artistic director of Conde Nast in 2013 and the company’s global content adviser in 2019. At the end of 2020, she was made worldwide chief content officer and global editorial director, a position that gave her the last word over Conde Nast publications, which also include Vanity Fair, in more than 30 markets outside the United States.

There is one Conde Nast publication that Ms. Wintour does not oversee: The New Yorker, which the author and editor David Remnick has led since 1998. Mr. Remnick and Ms. Wintour declined to comment for this article.

Ms. Meade said the union had chosen Ms. Wintour’s neighborhood because she served as a “proxy” for Conde Nast. “What’s happening at The New Yorker is not necessarily happening in a vacuum,” she said.

The protest was the most dramatic Conde Nast job action since members of the New Yorker’s staff walked off the job for one day in January. In September, when staff members refused to work at the annual New Yorker Festival, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pulled out of their schedule appearances in solidarity with them.

In March, the magazine’s union workers, along with the unions at Ars Technica and Pitchfork, voted to authorize a strike.

Noam Scheiber contributed reporting.

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