- The Washington Times - Friday, May 7, 2021

A dozen editorial staffers at a longtime Washington magazine are refusing to publish Friday in response to an opinion piece written by the company’s chief executive.

In the column, Washingtonian CEO Cathy Merrill wrote that if employees want to keep working from home post-pandemic, they should be changed to “contractor” status — which means they would not receive a set salary or benefits.

At least a dozen staffers tweeted Friday morning: “As members of the Washingtonian editorial staff, we want our CEO to understand the risks of not valuing our labor. We are dismayed by Cathy Merrill’s public threat to our livelihoods. We will not be publishing today.”

The Washingtonian shows about 50 writers and editors on its staff.

The editorial titled “As a CEO, I worry about the erosion of office culture with more remote work” was published Thursday by The Washington Post.

Ms. Merrill, who has been in charge of the magazine since 2006, said she estimates that “about 20 percent of every office job is outside one’s core responsibilities — ‘extra.’”

“It involves helping a colleague, mentoring more junior people, celebrating someone’s birthday — things that drive office culture,” Ms. Merrill wrote. “If the employee is rarely around to participate in those extras, management has a strong incentive to change their status to ‘contractor.’”

The switch, she said, would save companies money because contractors are paid hourly or based on certain output metrics. No benefits, less office space, bonuses and parking fees also would add to the potential savings, she said.

The CEO ended the column with a warning: “Remember something every manager knows: The hardest people to let go are the ones you know.”

Ms. Merrill reportedly apologized to staff in an email Friday morning and said her “intent was to write about how worried I and other CEOs are about preserving the cultures we built up in our offices,” The Daily Beast reported.

“I do worry about larger, less personal businesses and how that may affect our country. That is precisely why I wrote the piece,” the email reportedly states. “Of course, when we come back to the office, we will do so in a measured, safe, well-thought-out way that complies the best scientific advice — both because that’s the law, and because I care deeply about every person who makes up Washingtonian. And, just as we’ve been a flexible office since long before COVID, we will make accommodations for staff who need them for as long as the pandemic lasts.”

Washingtonian is a family-owned monthly magazine with features, business and political articles that has been distributed in the Washington area since 1965. The company website states its paid circulation last year was more than 108,000 and monthly online readership was nearly 434,000.

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