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As One World Trade Turns

anna wintour roger lynch
The whole affair is embarrassing, and, no matter what you think of the leadership or the union, it’s a very sad, dismal turn of events for a storied publisher that not so long ago wouldn’t have been caught dead in a situation like this. Photo: Dave Benett/Getty Images for Alexander McQueen
Dylan Byers
March 20, 2024

This week, Roger Lynch, the Condé Nast C.E.O., and Anna Wintour, the chief content officer, artistic director, and company grande dame, were forced to momentarily set aside the customary duties of running a global mass media company and once again contend with that incessant, tick-in-the-ass distraction that is the Condé Nast Union. For years, of course, the union—which represents Vanity Fair, Vogue, Bon Appétit, etcetera—has been trying to negotiate a contract with management, to no avail. And in recent months, amid the specter of inevitable layoffs, the union has become increasingly confrontational: marching up to Lynch’s oft-vacant office in protest and staging an Oscars-themed walkout, among other tactics. None of this has brought the two sides any closer to détente, of course: The union’s demands are ambitious—or “ridiculous,” as not one but two Condé Nast journalists put it to me. Meanwhile, it goes without saying that the leadership has demonstrably struggled to finesse the issue.

In any event, on Tuesday, the screw took another turn. In the wake of a particularly disastrous bargaining session, the union’s lead representative, Mark Alan Burger, informed his comrades of an unexpected setback: Not only had management refused to put forward any new proposals, they had also shared their intention to cut five additional positions on top of the 94 staffers who had already been targeted for layoffs—that is, once a bargaining agreement is finally reached, because the company can’t lay them off until then—and abruptly concluded the meeting an hour ahead of schedule. And this was just days after Lynch had told Axios that he had no further plans for staff reductions. To add insult to injury, Lynch appeared to blame the need for five additional scalps on the union’s failure to reach an agreement. And sure, the extra five heads may have been a technically de minimis addition to the overall carnage, but it was the latest micro-disaster in a series of P.R. nightmares for Lynch, who appears to either be receiving bad advice or ignoring all advice altogether. “There was a massive blow-up, and now the whole war has gone nuclear,” one Condé Nast journalist told me.