Almost a year after it began, the #EbonyOwes crisis might finally be coming to an end.
Texas-based private equity firm ClearView Group, which acquired Ebony from longtime owners Johnson Publishing nearly two years ago, has reached a settlement with the National Writers Union which will compel the former to disburse $80,000 in unpaid wages to 45 freelance writers and illustrators for work going back as far as 2016, the NWU announced Tuesday.
“According to the terms of the agreement, Ebony will pay all of the freelancers 100 percent of their owed invoices in four quarterly payments, starting with the oldest invoices first,” reads an statement issued Tuesday by the NWU. “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.”
The controversy picked up last April, when journalist Jagger Blaec penned an article in The Establishment titled, “Why Isn’t Ebony Paying Its Black Writers?,” which claimed that “close to a dozen” contributors had not been paid for their contributions to the 70-year-old title.
That kicked off a protracted and sometimes ugly back-and-forth between the magazine’s new owners and the freelancers who claimed they’d been stiffed for their work, which included Ebony‘s own Twitter account blocking and subtweeting the aggrieved writers as well as a bizarre series of DM’s between Blaec and CVG vice chairman Willard Jackson, and ultimately helped earn Ebony the “Thumbs Down Award” from the National Association of Black Journalists—alongside Fox News. (A more detailed rundown of the controversy can be found here.)
“This is a great success for the Ebony writers and NWU,” said Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, who was one of the editors and freelancers claiming unpaid wages, in a prepared statement. “That said, settlement agreements are only as good as the cleared checks. I hope that Ebony magazine and its parent company make good on their renewed promise to pay.”
This continues to be a developing story.