In September, the National Writers Union filed a striking lawsuit against Ebony Media Operations and its parent company, Clear View Group, LLC., on behalf of dozens of freelance writers, who claimed that they are owed more than $70,000 in unpaid wages. On the heels of the lawsuit and after an #Ebonyowes social media campaign gained significant steam online, the media group has agreed to pay to settle the lawsuit, which was filed in state court in Cook County, Illinois and alleged that Ebony failed to compensate 39 writers, editors and other creatives for contributions to its print and web publications in violation of state wage and labor laws.
As of this week, the National Writers Union confirmed that it has reached a final settlement agreement with the Ebony Media Organization and CVG Group LLC, which covers 45 freelancers, who are collectively owed $80,000 by the new owners of the iconic magazine. According to the Union, six writers who were part of the original group non-payment grievance were paid-out about $8,000 before the parties’ settlement.
Larry Goldbetter, president of the National Writers Union, which is representing the class of individual freelancers, has stated that as part of the agreement, “Ebony will pay all of the freelancers 100% of their owed invoices in four quarterly payments, starting with the oldest invoices first. Almost half of the invoices go back to 2016. The payments are guaranteed by Ebony’s ownership group, CVG, who also signed the settlement agreement.
Mr. Goldbetter further stated, “The Ebony freelancers have shown what is possible when we stand together as a union. A freelancer can turn to dust making endless calls and emails trying to get paid. But 50 freelancers demanding $100,000 as a union, changes everything.”
The lawsuit comes amidst widespread complaints within the fashion industry – and beyond – regarding the terms of massive publications’ deals with freelance writers and other creatives. This past spring, Vogue’s parent company Condé Nast, for instance, made headlines for adding language to its freelance contracts to allow for quicker payment in exchange for a discount on the agreed-upon rate. This set the industry and the internet abuzz with fury.
Fashionista first shed light on the vendor memo issued by Condé, introducing the new payment terms. According to the memo, “At the top of our project list is an accelerated payment option, which will allow you to get paid more quickly when a small discount taken off the invoice is accepted. There will be more news coming out on this enhancement over the next few months.” (Note: Condé Nast has since stated that the new language is meant for larger vendors, such as Staples and FedEx, and not individual creatives).