Seven Chicago-based employees at The A.V. Club have turned down their employer’s “invitation” to relocate to Los Angeles in favor of union-protected severance packages, according to a statement from their union Tuesday afternoon. Those employees include: the site’s managing editor, TV editor, film editor, associate editor, senior writer, assistant editor, and editorial coordinator.
Early last month, staffers at the film, music, and culture blog — one of several former Gawker Media properties acquired by the private equity firm Great Hill Partners and reorganized G/O Media in 2019 — were informed by their boss, editor-in-chief Scott Robson, that the site planned to shutter its Chicago office in 2022. Staffers in Chicago, according to a meeting reported by Gawker, were “invited” to follow their jobs to Los Angeles — or lose them. There were seven Chicago-based employees at the time, all of whom were expected to move in one of two groups, the first by March of 2022, the second by May. Those in the first group were given until Jan. 15 to make a decision; those in the second had until March 2.
The decision-making process was complicated by the fact that, before the first deadline on Jan. 15, G/O Media posted job listings for three of the positions — all of which were, at that time, still occupied by staff. When Gawker contacted G/O Media for comment about the listings last week, they did not respond.
In their statement on Tuesday, the Onion Union — representing “The Onion, The A.V. Club, The Takeout, Deadspin, Onion Labs, and Onion Inc.’s art, video, and marketing departments” — claimed that G/O Media had declined to negotiate on any of the terms of the relocation or severance. The company had, however, allowed “departing employees to purchase their company laptops at a depreciated value.” Had the staffers agreed to relocate, they would have held their current positions and salaries, but would not have received a cost-of-living increase, though Los Angeles is more expensive than Chicago.
“More than half of these staff members were willing to relocate to Los Angeles, and some even expressed interest in doing so before G/O communicated its mandate,” the union wrote. “However it is simply not reasonable to expect people to uproot their lives for what amounts to a rather severe pay cut…It’s clear G/O’s ‘invitation’ was never meant to be accepted.”
In a statement sent following the publication of this post, a G/O Media spokesperson wrote:
We are sorry that these Chicago staffers will not be making the move with the A.V. Club to Los Angeles. This move to L.A. was planned and announced to the A.V. Club staff over two years ago. We were slowed of course by the pandemic, but under the leadership of our new A.V. Club editor in chief Scott Robson, a seasoned entertainment industry journalist, we look forward to establishing our new headquarters in L.A. early this year.
This relocation will bring the A.V. Club closer to the industry it covers, allowing the site to grow its entertainment relationships while providing more access to important events and talent. The relocation offer to the Chicago staff members was made in compliance with the recently negotiated union collective bargaining agreement. We feel the A.V. Club's pay scales are competitive with the rest of the industry, and look forward to attracting top candidates to join the site in Los Angeles.