Boston-based food media empire America’s Test Kitchen, which produces magazines, cookbooks, and TV shows, laid off about 10 percent of its workforce this week and shut down its children-focused cooking vertical ATK Kids.
23 employees were laid off, including 14 union members and 9 non-union staffers, according to an Instagram post by ATKUnited, the media company’s unionized workforce. The cuts included the entire staff of ATK Kids, the company’s vertical dedicated to children’s cookbooks and kid-friendly recipes, as well as staffers from the books and marketing teams.
“We grieve for our affected coworkers,” the post reads. “Their intelligence, drive, creativity, and years of accumulated institutional knowledge will be sorely missed.” The union is currently negotiating with the company over severance pay and benefits for affected workers, according to the post.
A spokesperson for America’s Test Kitchen acknowledged that the company has undergone a “reorganization” that prompted the layoffs. “While we firmly believe that our decisions will re-position the company for greater success in this ever-changing media environment, it is a difficult time given that we let go of members of the company who contributed to ATK each in their own way,” the spokesperson said in a statement to Eater.
The cooking and recipe development powerhouse, which includes Cook’s Illustrated magazine, Cook’s Country magazine and TV show, and flagship TV show America’s Test Kitchen, as well as a production house, has undergone plenty of upheaval over the past year.
Last summer, America’s Test Kitchen staffers voted to unionize with the Communications Workers of America through Boston-based shop CWA Local 1400. The decision was driven by poor working conditions at the company, including low pay, high staff turnover, and high healthcare costs, according to Boston.com. The union is currently in the midst of bargaining for its first contract.
Less than two months ago, Marquee Brands — the owner of fashion and cooking brands including BCBG, Motherhood Maternity, Martha Stewart, and Emeril Lagasse — acquired America’s Test Kitchen. Dan Suratt, a former executive at TV streaming device company Roku, was named America’s Test Kitchen’s new CEO.
In ATKUnited’s post, the union noted that when the acquisition was made and Suratt came on board, employees “were assured that nothing would change.” The layoffs were announced just over six weeks later.
“It’s disappointing that this new executive leadership, including the CEO, has made a decision to put profits over people,” Don Trementozzi, the president of CWA Local 1400, tells Eater. “This is nothing more than corporate greed and not caring about the passionate workers who have built this company and their profits. We are sad that it has come to this but we are going to do everything within our power as the union to get these employees the best exit packages possible.”
Media employees have been hit hard by layoffs recently as the sector struggles with economic uncertainty and loss of advertising revenue. New England Public Media — an NPR and PBS affiliate in Massachusetts — announced this week that it is laying off about 20 percent of its staff. NPR itself cut 10 percent of its workforce this week and canceled four podcasts in what amounts to NPR’s “biggest wave of layoffs in decades,” the Washington Post reports.
Launched in 1992, America’s Test Kitchen is a nationally recognized food media company known for its rigorous testing process and recommendations for recipes and kitchen equipment. The company is currently based in the Seaport, where it runs a 15,000-square-foot test kitchen space.
Update: March 24, 2023, 1:02 p.m.: This article was updated to include comments from CWA Local 1400 president Don Trementozzi.
Update: March 24, 2023, 3:15 p.m.: This article was updated to include a statement from an America’s Test Kitchen spokesperson.