West Hollywood’s Grindr loses nearly half its staff to return-to-office rule

By Natalie Lung | Bloomberg

Grindr Inc. has lost about 45% of its staff as it enforces a strict return-to-office policy that was introduced after a majority of employees announced a plan to unionize.

About 80 of the 178 employees at the LGBTQ dating app company were forced to resign after the company in August mandated workers return to work in person two days a week at assigned “hub” offices or be fired, the Communications Workers of America said in a statement Wednesday.

The West Hollywood-based company also gave a severance package to staff who were unable to relocate, in what the CWA alleged was an attempt “to silence workers from speaking out about their working conditions,” according to a statement from the organization.

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The CWA filed a new labor complaint against the company on Wednesday, the second such complaint in about a month.

“These decisions have left Grindr dangerously understaffed and raises questions about the safety, security and stability of the app for users,” Erick Cortez, a member of the organizing group, said in the statement. “It is clear Grindr wants workers to be silenced and deterred from exercising our right to organize, regardless of the expense.”

Grindr didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Chief Executive Officer George Arison told investors at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia + Technology conference in San Francisco this week that more staff attrition is expected as a result of the mandate, which will be financially advantageous in the near term.

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“The team will be smaller than where we were before and where we want to be,” Arison said. “So that’ll obviously impact margin in a positive way in the near term. But I also think that shows that you can have a lot of leverage in this business because you don’t need that big of a team to do the things that we need to do.”

Staffing is the “single biggest cost” after fees paid to app distribution platforms like Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to Arison.

A review of LinkedIn posts made by former Grindr employees shows departures from various roles in iOS app development, data engineering and product strategy.

Grindr’s public showdown underscores the broader tension between employers and their workers as they are increasingly called back to the office after years of flexible work policies during the pandemic.

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Amazon.com Chief Executive Officer Andy Jassy has amped up his RTO rhetoric, telling staff who refuse to comply with the company’s mandate for in-office work three days a week that “it’s probably not going to work out for you,” according to an Insider report. AT&T Inc. told 60,000 managers that they must report to work in person at one of nine locations, which some employees view as a move to reduce staff.

Return-to-office mandates hurt employee engagement and staffers’ ability to do their best work, according to research from real estate broker Cushman & Wakefield. “If you remove your employees’ freedom of choice, it comes at a great expense,” said Bryan Berthold, the global lead of workplace experience, in a LinkedIn post about the report in August.

The CWA told the National Labor Relations Board in August that the policy was a retaliatory response to the union drive that workers announced on July 20. The labor organizing effort, which is still underway as it has yet to gain the company’s recognition, has overwhelming support among a proposed bargaining unit of around 100 employees, pro-union staff have said.

See more: Even Zoom is making its staff return to the office

Grindr last month raised its full-year outlook for revenue growth and profit margins, boosted by high demand for its recently-launched weekly subscription offering and other new features. The shares are up 17% this year.

–With assistance from Brody Ford and Matthew Boyle.

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