Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have pulled out of next week’s New York Festival, New York Magazine’s star-studded annual event, in solidarity with unionized editors planning a digital picket line.
Ms. Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for Democratic presidency, and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, were due to be the keynote speakers on Monday evening, the first night of the annual event. The New York Union had scheduled a picket for one night from 8 p.m. on the same night
In a September 24 letter to the two politicians, the union asked them to reconsider their participation in the face of the labor dispute with New York management.
“The NewsGuild and the New York Union are fighting for basic dignity at work and we stand by them,” Ms. Warren and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said in a joint statement to the New York Times. “We will not cross the picket line and attend the festival unless the New York leadership approves the union’s demands – they should do so immediately.”
At the center of the controversy is a proposal for a “just cause” for the New York Union to include in its treaty. “Just Cause” is a common provision in union contracts that provides a standard that an employer must meet in order to discipline or terminate workers.
Natalie Meade, a New York editor and chair of the New York union, said staff had no choice but to organize the picket line on Monday night.
“We don’t want to have to do these kinds of actions, but we feel like we don’t have a voice because they don’t hear our requests at the table,” she said.
Susan DeCarava, president of the NewsGuild of New York, which represents the New York Union, said Ms. Warren and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s scheduled appearances were “deeply hypocritical” as the magazine advocated progressive causes but failed to reach an agreement with many of his workers.
“We couldn’t take it without people knowing The New Yorker was talking, but it’s struggling to go the way,” Ms. DeCarava said in an interview.
A spokeswoman for The New Yorker, headed by editor David Remnick since 1998, said the publication seeks to reach a fair deal with the union.
“Like much of the media outlets, The New Yorker firmly believes that its editorial standards should not be set by arbitrators outside of The New Yorker, and we look forward to our further fair rationale discussions in negotiation,” the spokeswoman said in an explanation.
Those who bought tickets for the virtual event with Ms. Warren and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez were informed on Wednesday that they would receive refunds, the spokeswoman added.
In 2018, more than 100 New York City employees – including fact checkers and editors, but not the magazine’s writers – announced they were forming a union that was part of a wave of organizing media publications of all sizes. The New York Union was recognized by the magazine in July this year, but has so far been unable to reach an agreement with management on a contract.
In an internal email to staff The Times received on Tuesday, New York leaders said the union’s action “undermines the hard work of your colleagues at the festival”.
“We know that the employees ultimately want to strengthen this institution, that a robust future for The New Yorker lies in all of our interests,” read the email from the New York Management Negotiating Committee. “We ask that, regardless of our differences, we take our common goals to heart when we enter into an agreement.”
Due to the pandemic, the New York Festival is taking place online for the first time in its 21-year history. It takes place from October 5th to 11th. Planned guests are Fiona Apple, Margaret Atwood, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Ethan Hawke, Jerry Seinfeld and Yo-Yo Ma.