In the midst of bankruptcy, VICE executives got paid. Workers didn’t.

The company paid several senior executives over a million dollars one day after the company announced layoffs of more than 100 employees.
The 8-story building that houses the Vice office.

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Eccentric current affairs media outlet Vice Media is going under, but its executives aren’t.

VICE Union revealed the company paid several senior executives over a million dollars of “retention bonuses” two weeks before filing for bankruptcy and one day after the company announced layoffs of more than 100 employees.

The bankruptcy announcement garnered attention from many corners of the media industry, given that VICE was poised to outshine legacy outlets, raising billions from investors, including Disney and 21st Century Fox. 

Notable payouts included the $45,000 paid to Cory Haik, COO of news and entertainment, and $201,467 to Subrata De, executive vice president of news. Both individuals oversaw divisions that experienced massive layoffs. 

While it’s received its fair share of critiques, VICE News’s coverage has long been associated with words like alternative, radical, and progressive. The company has a legacy of covering “taboo” topics like sex and drugs with the rigor and seriousness they deserve, and its staff has often covered stories from angles that other outlets avoid. Because of this, minoritized communities have sought coverage from VICE to ensure their stories are appropriately heard. However, the ethics of their editorial values aren’t translating to adequately caring for their staff.

According to the union’s GoFundMe, VICE News did not issue severance payments to union employees, which the union said is against the terms of the 2021 contract it negotiated with the company. Under bankruptcy law, certain employees are entitled to a severance payment, but the matter is still being deliberated in court.

While some employees are waiting for severance they’re owed, others may never receive the minimal support. JC Gotinga, a journalist who worked on VICE’s Asia-Pacific Team, tweeted the company is legally allowed to avoid paying severance to him and four former colleagues because it doesn’t have an office in their countries.

Staff affected by the layoffs are searching for work in a depressed job market and struggling to pay for basic necessities, housing, and healthcare, hence the union’s GoFundMe.

That VICE put its former workers in this situation is staggering and terribly ironic, considering VICE’s head of HR Daisy Auger-Dominguez (who was paid a $99,000 retention bonus) authored “Inclusion Revolution: The Essential Guide to Dismantling Racial Inequity in the Workplace.”

In its statement, VICE Union says the company’s actions are unacceptable: “If bankruptcy has accomplished anything, it’s shown that VICE is in dire financial straits because of rampant mismanagement and corporate greed of such staggering proportions that $1.6 billion in funding disappeared in less than a decade.”

This piece originally came from The Front Page, our twice-monthly newsletter on that examines systems of power and inequity in journalism. Subscribe here.

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