On Wednesday, August 30, the Village Voice, a left-leaning New York alternative newsweekly founded by Dan Wolf, Ed Fancher, and Norman Mailer in 1955, laid off thirteen out of seventeen of its union employees, Colin Moynihan of the New York Times reports. The layoffs come on the heels of the paper’s announcement that it would end its print edition as part of an effort to “revitalize and reimagine the Village Voice brand.”
A spokesperson for the publication said that the staff reductions were mostly positions tied to the production of the print side of the newsweekly, as it would now become a digitally focused company. According to the union, among the employees who will no longer have jobs once the last print edition is issued, during the third week of September, are a writer, a social-media producer, an administrative assistant, and a photo editor who has worked for the Village Voice for decades.
“We were shocked,” said Maida Rosenstein, president of the United Auto Workers Local 2110, which represents the Voice’s union members. “And frankly, we’re appalled because of the proportion of the bargaining unit being let go.”
Tensions at the paper have been rising since its unionized employees began bargaining with management over their contract before it expired in June. Under the direction of Peter D. Barbey, who bought the Voice in 2015, the paper announced that it was going to get rid of job security provisions, grievance rights, childcare subsidies, and a tuition assistance program, among other benefits. While the union tried to fight the drastic cuts, its members set up a strike fund.
According to Rosenstein, the union was told that there might be layoffs, but it was not told who would lose their jobs or when. “They were at pains to tell us that they wanted to make a real go of the digital edition and expected the union to be a part of all that,” she said. Rosenstein plans on reviewing the paper’s actions in order to determine whether the layoffs were retaliatory or unlawful.