Those who began their careers in high-end magazines during the 2008 financial crisis largely accepted a system in which bloodline was often the path to success and after-hours gigs were the norm if you didn’t have a private fortune to back you up in a system that had little to do with it. above the retail wage. For a long time there was broad consensus that status was a rightful form of compensation, that working in the industry that brought us Richard Avedon and “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold” compensated for all the inconveniences that came from being forced to live with five unpleasant musicians on avenue c.
Those in their twenties and thirties now occupying junior and middle management positions in places like Condé Nast actually have the worst of both worlds: insufficient pay and the lost prestige created by digitization.
Just days after the announcement about Condé Nast, news came that more than 2,600 workers at a massive Amazon facility on Staten Island voted to unionize in what is believed to be the biggest organized labor victory in decades. In the past 40 years, the proportion of workers represented by a union has halved. But white-collar workers have increasingly galvanized. Last year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even as the number of workers who unionized fell by 241,000, the highest union rates were primarily among professional workers — those in education, training and library.
The tight job market for higher education PhDs, another bastion of faded glamour, has sparked a wave of organization among graduate students. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board withdrew a ruling that would ban student workers at private universities from joining unions. Strikes followed at Columbia, Harvard and New York University. Just this week, MIT graduate students voted to be represented by the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
Viewed from one angle, social media offers a desperate look at the lives of older writers, editors, stylists and others in contracted creative fields, some of whom had been known for glossy magazines and left New York, downsized, taken over hourly wages or turn to GoFundMe to help cover health care costs when a serious illness strikes.
“Every employee knows that as they get older, they risk that management will find them less relevant,” Jenny Singer, a staff writer at Glamor told me. “I’m 28 and have a part-time job to supplement my income. I wouldn’t be homeless without it, but it gives me peace of mind. This salary is not sustainable at all if I would like to have a child. A living wage means being able to start a family, exist as an ordinary person who may be in debt, or care for an elderly relative. It doesn’t mean you’re an able-bodied 28-year-old with your parents’ health insurance.”