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Behind the Condé Nast strikes: From Hathaway's backing to prejudice allegations

By Florence Julienne


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Photo by ANGELA WEISS / AFP Credits: US actress Anne Hathaway attends the CFDA Fashion Awards at the American Museum of Natural History in New York on November 6, 2023.

It has been almost one week since US actress Anne Hathaway exited a Vanity Fair shoot in support of the ongoing strike action among journalists and employees of the magazine’s parent company Condé Nast. At the time, her departure was interpreted by the press as an act of defiance for the demonstrators.

And while the ‘Devil Wears Prada’ star had not publicly joined the demonstration, nor did she share any words for the workers themselves, her departure was enough to make the front page of magazines and publicise the strike movement, which is currently impacting the impeccable image often conveyed by the publishing giant.

Trouble had already began brewing, however, when back in March 2022, 400 Condé Nast employees formed a union, notably communicating the move via the Instagram account ‘Condeunion’, where they said: "We are the workforce behind some of the biggest names in fashion, design, lifestyle and technology, but our achievements are rewarded with job insecurity and no benefits. We care too much about our work not to have a say. We call on Condé Nast to quickly and voluntarily recognise our union so we can get on with the job of building a better Condé for everyone."

‘The Devil wears Prada, the workers have nada’

More than five months later, Condé Union was officially recognised as a trade union. This marked the start of a new chapter: the negotiation of working conditions. The debate quickly turned sour however when, at the end of December 2022, the union took the side of the contract workers. Condé Nast's reaction, as described by union members, was: "This week we learned that a number of our valued contract workers (who do the same work as full-time staff) were made redundant just before the one-year cut-off date from which they become eligible to join the union. This is a flagrant violation of trade union rights, and we will not tolerate it".

A year later, towards the end of 2023, relations between management – represented by Roger Lynch, CEO of Condé Nast; Anna Wintour, the infamous editor-in-chief of Vogue; and Cameron Bruce, who was in charge of the discussions – and the more than 500 union members, were concerning at a time when inclusivity is at the height of importance. An excerpt of a complaint read: "In the run-up to the festive season, it is disappointing to see our management providing redundancy lists that would leave teams made up entirely of white cis men and impose extra work on those not on the list."

All this culminated in strike action and a demonstration on Tuesday 23 January 2024. It was also this day that Hathaway was shooting for Vanity Fair, during which she ultimately left the make-up room. Her departure was reported as support for the demands. The symbolism was powerful, as onlookers reminisced on her role as Andy Sachs, an employee confronted with a tyrannical boss, Miranda Priestly, a character in the film loosely interpreted from the novel by Lauren Weisberger, former assistant to Anna Wintour.

Miranda Priestly: 'Everybody wants to be us'

So when Vogue headlined "If Andy Sachs had continued her career in The Devil Wears Prada, here's the dress she would have worn", the union replied "If Runway had had a union, the film would have lasted 30 seconds". To date, Condé Nast's decision to make 5 percent of its staff redundant stands. According to the New York Times, the cuts will affect around 270 people (300 according to the union) out of the group's 5,400 full-time employees worldwide.

"The redundancies will be phased over the coming months and the company is also undertaking a series of other actions, including reducing office space and eliminating open positions to reduce costs and invest in strategic growth," said Roger Lynch in a note to employees. It should be noted that Vogue France, now under the control of Wintour herself, has already undergone a number of restructurings aimed at cutting costs, ahead of the impending Vogue World event in Paris.

Conde Nast