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Cover of the Village Voice, October 26–November 1, 2016.

Arts Writers Rally Behind Village Voice’s Union

Arts journalists, writers, editors, and other cultural figures have signed an open letter addressed to Peter Barbey, the billionaire owner of the Village Voice, criticizing his leadership of the storied paper and accusing him of trying to weaken its historic union.

Since the last union contract expired on June 30, union members have been trying to negotiate new terms with the management team appointed by Barbey. Management, however, wants to make severe modifications to the contract, such as eliminating the paper’s diversity and affirmative-action commitments; terminating the union’s ability to bargain over healthcare (making union members accept whatever healthcare options management offers, without question); and reducing the amount of leave new parents can take.

Employees became quickly frustrated with management’s inflexible stance and their ignorance of the paper’s history. Over the years, the Village Voice has staunchly defended LGBTQ rights and was the first private company in the country to offer domestic/same-sex partner benefits in 1982. On June 21, union members peacefully protested outside the paper’s inaugural annual Voice Pride Awards gala—celebrating New York’s LGBTQ community—at the event space Capitale in the Bowery.

One employee told artforum.com that the “paper was founded to serve as a voice of resistance—cultural, political—so the idea that management wants to roll back the rights and protections this proud union has fought for over four decades fundamentally misunderstands what the Village Voice stands for. So many of America’s great journalists and critics have written for the Voice: Hilton Als, J. Hoberman, Thulani Davis, Jill Johnston, Deborah Jowitt, Cynthia Carr, Peter Schjeldahl, Colson Whitehead, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Jerry Saltz, B. Ruby Rich, Roberta Smith, Molly Haskell, Mark Schoofs, Manohla Dargis—and so many of them were union members.”

Als and Schjeldahl, the theater critic and the art critic at the New Yorker, respectively, are among the signees of the open letter, published on Medium, which states: “We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Village Voice Union. We hope you will meet its members with a fair and reasonable contract, upholding their hard-won rights and benefits. If you do, our entire field will be much richer for it.” Those interested in supporting the union may contribute to its strike fund here.

The entire open letter is as follows:

An Open Letter to Peter Barbey, Owner of the Village Voice:

We the undersigned have all written for the Village Voice over the course of our careers. We each found it to be a paper where journalists and critics such as ourselves could hone our chops, find our voices, and receive the freedom and encouragement to become the writers we are now. Though we have moved on from its ranks for one reason or another, our admiration and affection for the publication remain strong.

We are disappointed to learn that you and your leadership want to weaken the Village Voice Union, one of the proudest legacies of the paper. As writers and journalists, we understand all too well the challenges that face print media today. That said, we wish to see this beloved paper continue to produce the highest caliber of work — work that deserves and demands your fullest support.

We stand in solidarity with our colleagues in the Village Voice Union. We hope you will meet its members with a fair and reasonable contract, upholding their hard-won rights and benefits. If you do, our entire field will be much richer for it.

Respectfully,

Vince Aletti
Photography Critic, The New Yorker

Hilton Als
Theater Critic, The New Yorker

William Bastone
Founder/Editor, The Smoking Gun

Raillan Brooks
Senior Staff Editor, The New York Times

Robert Christgau
Music Critic and Essayist

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Writer

Joe Conason
Editor-in-Chief, The National Memo

Joe Coscarelli
Culture Writer, The New York Times

Araceli Cruz
Writer

Manohla Dargis
Co-Chief Film Critic, The New York Times

Camille Dodero
Writer, Editor, and Reporter

Jen Doll
Writer, The New York Times, New York Magazine, Glamour; Author, Save the Date and Unclaimed Baggage

Gary Giddins
Author

Richard Goldstein
Author

Jennifer Gonnerman
Staff Writer, The New Yorker

Vivian Gornick
Critic, Journalist, and Memoirist

Ed Halter
Author and Critic; Co-Director of Light Industry

LynNell Hancock
Education Reporter; Professor, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Rob Harvilla
Staff Writer, The Ringer

Molly Haskell
Author and Critic

Doug Henwood
Journalist and Broadcaster; Contributing Editor, The Nation

Elizabeth Hess
Author

J. Hoberman
Author

Andrew Hsiao
U.S. Publisher, Verso Books

Sharyn Jackson
Staff Writer, Minneapolis Star Tribune

Foster Kamer
Managing Editor, Mashable

James Ledbetter
Editor and Author

Dennis Lim
Author and Critic; Director of Programming, Film Society of Lincoln Center

Stan Mack
Cartoonist

Brian McManus
Special Projects Editor, VICE

Coco McPherson
Writer

Anna Merlan
Senior Reporter, Gizmodo Media Group

Michael Miller
Editor, Bookforum

Michael Musto
Writer

Ed Park
Novelist; Executive Editor, Penguin Press

Brian Parks
Senior Editor, 4Columns

Dan Perkins (a/k/a Tom Tomorrow)
Creator, This Modern World

Tejal Rao
Reporter, The New York Times; Columnist, The New York Times Magazine

B. Ruby Rich
Editor-in-Chief, Film Quarterly; Professor, Film and Digital Media Department, University of California, Santa Cruz

Carrie Rickey
Movie Critic and Independent Film Historian

James Ridgeway
Founder and Co-Director, Solitarywatch.com

Tom Robbins
Investigative Journalist–in-Residence, CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

Jerry Saltz
Senior Art Critic, New York Magazine

Albert Samaha
National Reporter, Buzzfeed News

Peter Schjeldahl
Art Critic, The New Yorker

Harry Siegel
Senior Editor, The Daily Beast

Robert Sietsma
Senior Critic, Eater New York

Alisa Solomon
Professor & Director, Arts Concentration, M.A. Program, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Mark Alan Stamaty
Cartoonist and Illustrator

Laurie Stone
Author

Tessa Stuart
Staff Writer, Rolling Stone

Eric Sundermann
Editor-In-Chief, Noisey

John Surico
Contributor, The New York Times; Reporter, VICE

Jonathan Tasini
Writer

Amy Taubin
Contributing Editor and Critic, Artforum and Film Comment

Steven Thrasher
Writer-at-Large and Senior Columnist, The Guardian US

Michael Tomasky
Special Correspondent, The Daily Beast; Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Jeff Weinstein
Writer and Editor; Trustee at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

Eric Weisbard
Organizer, MoPOP Pop Conference

Colson Whitehead
Novelist

Lynn Yaeger
Contributing Editor, Vogue

Stephanie Zacharek
Film Critic, Time

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