Cover of the Village Voice, March 16–March 22, 2016.

Village Voice Staff Fight to Keep their Historic Union

The staff of New York’s Village Voice, one of the few remaining alternative weekly newspapers in the United States, is battling the paper’s management to preserve its historic union, which was established forty years ago, Hamiliton Nolan of Fusion reports.

Since the last union contract, which was signed in 2014, will expire on June 30, its members began to negotiate its terms with the management team appointed by its new owner billionaire Peter Barbey—a self-proclaimed liberal who purchased the Voice in 2015. However, employees have found management to be inflexible and ignorant of the significance of the union’s history of being at the forefront of political and social change. Among the severe modifications to their contract that have been proposed are the elimination of the paper’s diversity and affirmative-action commitments; the termination of the union’s ability to bargain over healthcare (union members must accept whatever healthcare options management offers, without question); and a reduction on the amount of leave new parents can have.

Many Voice staffers had high expectations for Barbey, a member of one of America’s wealthiest families—the clan owns the garment companies Nautica, Timberland, and North Face, in addition to another newspaper, Pennsylvania’s Reading Eagle—who once declared, “I unequivocally believe there’s great value in the Village Voice brand.” He also spent $26 million on a Greenwich Village apartment so that he could be more “hands on” with the paper.

On June 21, union members will meet outside the paper’s first-annual Voice Pride Awards gala—celebrating New York’s LGBTQ community—at the event space Capitale on 130 Bowery, starting at 5:30 PM, to peacefully protest, “not to disrupt the event or to oppose what it stands for” according to a statement released by the union (the Village Voice was the first private company in the country to offer domestic/same-sex partner benefits in 1982).

As one employee said, “This 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.” Those interested in supporting the union may contribute to its strike fund here.