Hearst Magazines’ writers, editors, art, design and video professionals voted to unionize, the latest media staff to come together in an effort to protect their rights as employers slash pay and benefits.

Hearst Magazines Media Union, about 500 strong, announced that it would form what will be one of the largest magazine unions with the Writers Guild of America, East. In an online statement, the employees said they were looking to increase diversity, compensation and transparency in Hearst’s decisions and improve editorial standards in such areas as the division between editorial and advertising responsibilities.

“It’s more important than ever… to have a say in the conditions of our employment,” the group said in a statement. 

Hearst didn’t respond to a request for comment. Hearst’s 24 titles include some of America’s best-known publications, including Good Housekeeping, Esquire and Cosmopolitan.

The Hearst workers join efforts in the print world at Conde Nast and online publications such as BuzzFeed News and Vox Media. Journalists’ are seeking added protections as publishers cut pay, benefits and whittle down rights. Content providers have criticized employers for not following practices that sometimes reflect progressive editorial content. 

Gabriel Kahn, a professor at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, said that the workers had been pushed into taking risky measures. 

Unionizing is “not without risk,” Kahn told Karma, but “the downside is not so much greater than what they’re dealing with otherwise.” 

In 2017, Joel Ricketts, the billionaire TD Ameritrade founder of the Gothamist and DNAInfo, closed the promising digital news sites after staff at the company’s New York office voted to unionize. 

The magazine industry has been struggling to stay relevant as readers venture elsewhere for news and information. Industry revenues fell from $46 billion in 2007 to $28 billion in 2017, an almost 40% drop, according to Statista. 

Kahn said that staff was not “unrealistic about their industry,” and that publications that work with their demands could benefit. “They’re asking for greater stability and the end result is better morale and greater productivity,” he said.

  • Magazine ad revenues, including digital, tumbled from just short of $15.5 million in 2017 to $13.6 million last year, a 12% decline, according to eMarketer. 
  • Accounting giant PwC last year projected consumer and advertising spending on magazines and newspapers would fall 5% over the five-year period ending 2023.  
  • Founded in 1885, Heart’s oldest publication, Good Housekeeping, also boasts its largest circulation with more than 4.2 million readers. Woman’s Day and Cosmopolitan both have more than two million readers.