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Outfest’s Union Effort Meets Employee Layoffs and Executive Director Takes Leave of Absence

Author: Christopher Wiggins

Following a staff attempt to unionize, LGBTQ+ nonprofit Outfest laid off five employees, while its executive director, Damien Navarro, has taken an unanticipated leave of absence. The organization’s board said the layoffs were pre-planned.

Amidst these developments, Navarro’s sudden leave of absence took many by surprise, occurring soon after disclosing the unionization initiative. Zackery Alexzander Stephens has been appointed acting executive director in Navarro’s absence.

Founded in 1982 in Los Angeles, Outfest advances LGBTQ+ equality by crafting, disseminating, and safeguarding LGBTQ+ narratives on film. Over its extensive history, it has presented thousands of cinematic works from around the world, serving as a vital conduit for the representation and inclusion of LGBTQ+ community members in the cinematic arena. The organization orchestrates several flagship events yearly, such as the Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival and the Outfest Fusion LGBTQ People of Color Film Festival, which are instrumental in underscoring and celebrating the diverse tapestry of queer storytelling and talent.

An unnamed QFU organizer expressed their disappointment, saying, “I am heartbroken over the state of this organization, which we have labored with love to build up. We find it disheartening that, in a time of change and potential growth, the immediate course of action has been one of contraction rather than collaboration.”

Regarding unionization, the Outfest board told IndieWire, “The Board has initiated measures to support organizational solvency and help realign the organization…It is with great sadness that we have to make layoffs, but these are in no way connected to the staff’s desire to unionize.”

Lead image shows Martine McDonald, Damien Navarro and Gabi Grossman.

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Original Article on The Advocate
Author: Christopher Wiggins

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