By:
June 7, 2021

Staff at The Atlantic announced Monday morning that they are unionizing with the NewsGuild of New York. The magazine’s management has already agreed to voluntarily recognize their union.

Roughly 80% of eligible staff writers, producers, fact-checkers, editors, engineers and art directors signed cards in support of the union, which will represent nearly 100 people. The staff tweeted that they are unionizing to ensure that they are fairly compensated and to have a say in major decisions that affect their work.

“Over the course of a year marked by uncertainty and isolation, the employees of The Atlantic have come together in solidarity to imagine our shared future,” the union’s mission statement reads. “We have faith in our leadership, but in a time of upheaval in our industry and nation, we also wish to ensure that all of the staffers who contribute to The Atlantic’s successes are justly rewarded for their labor and free to speak their mind on matters of concern.”

Like hundreds of other publications during the pandemic, The Atlantic underwent a round of layoffs last year. In May 2020, the magazine announced that it was cutting 17% of its staff, or 68 employees, due in part to “a bracing decline in advertising.” As part of the layoffs, The Atlantic eliminated its video team. In all, 22 editorial members were affected.

Shortly after staffers informed management that they were unionizing, editor-in-chief Jeffrey Goldberg emailed staff to announce that the magazine would voluntarily recognize the union.

“We all love The Atlantic, and we all take seriously our responsibility to be careful stewards of this great institution,” Goldberg wrote. “I couldn’t agree more with an idea expressed in the statement from union organizers that we just received: The indispensable mission of The Atlantic is to illuminate ‘the complexity of the modern world with clarity and modesty’ and to provide readers ‘with a forum for civil disagreement in an era of acrimony.’”

The Atlantic’s staff joins workers at dozens of other publications that have unionized during the pandemic, including Pop-Up Magazine, which was also owned by the Emerson Collective until it became independent in October 2020.

David A. Graham, a member of the organizing committee, told CNN Business that The Atlantic’s status as one of the few nonunionized newsrooms had put it in “a sort of strange place in the industry.” He added that he had met some journalists who were wary of working at a nonunionized newsroom.

At least 30 newsrooms have announced union drives since the start of 2021. The NewsGuild of New York has helped organize many of those publications, including The New York Times, The New York Daily News, Insider and Forbes.

The union’s rapid organizing has brought criticism from some who argue that the union has overextended itself financially. Many of the new units are still in the midst of negotiations and thus do not yet pay dues, leaving older units to fund the union’s activities. Members will soon vote on whether to raise dues.

Correction: The Emerson Collective no longer owns Pop-Up Magazine. 

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Angela Fu is a reporter for Poynter. She can be reached at afu@poynter.org or on Twitter @angelanfu.
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