BuzzFeed News reporters are starting to get impatient. Four months have passed since they voted to create a union, but the company still has not officially recognized them.
Dozens of frustrated employees left work Monday afternoon to protest the company's delay in recognizing BuzzFeed News Union. Journalists in New York, San Francisco, Washington DC and Los Angeles stopped working at 2 pm to get the attention of the company.
– Eric Morrow (@morroweric) June 17, 2019
Officials of the popular news website, which employs over 200 journalists in the United States, have been arguing with union representatives for months about the number of employees who can join the bargaining unit, according to a statement communicated to Vox by BuzzFeed News Union. The union, which is represented by the NewsGuild of New York, said management always tried to exclude workers they claim to be managers or supervisors, even though no employee reports to them.
BuzzFeed says this is not true and the union is delaying the process. In an email to employees, which was shared with Vox, Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, said the union would not accept a proposal to define the positions that would be part of the bargaining unit. before being recognized, and would not agree to honor individual contracts as long as they would not. negotiate a collective bargaining contract.
"Despite what you might hear, we continue to have daily and ongoing communication between our lawyers and we are confident that the proposal will provide a solid foundation for advancing the collective bargaining process," Peretti said in his mail. electronic. The company's offer would recognize 77 journalists from the bargaining unit, much less than the union wants.
The last few months have been "tense," the union said in its statement, and the employees are frustrated. According to the release, no other digital media company has taken so long to recognize a union during the recent wave of unionization in the information sector. Another option would be for employees to seek recognition from the National Labor Relations Board, a process that could take even longer.
Journalists from more than 30 new digital sites have joined the union over the last two years for higher salaries, benefits and severance pay in an unstable industry that has seen nearly 12,000 layoffs a year latest. And employees are more willing than ever to use aggressive tactics to get what they want. Earlier this month, more than 300 Vox Media employees participated in a one-day work stoppage during the final stages of contract negotiation. (Disclosure: I am a member of Vox Media Union.)
In the past, BuzzFeed has been particularly resistant to union efforts. In 2015, Peretti notably interrupted the debate on the subject. BuzzFeed employees have since seen the success of their colleagues in other media. Monday's walkout shows that they are ready to take aggressive action. to bring the company to the negotiating table.
The information industry is organizing faster than ever
The walkout of BuzzFeed comes during a wave of union campaigns in the media sector. While print journalists have a long tradition of organizing, digital information companies have created a culture of a young, flexible and temporary workforce.
The idea that Millennials would unionize newsrooms was once considered strange, especially as the number of union members has declined overall in American workplaces.
In 2015, the Washington Post published an article titled "Why Internet Journalists Do not Unionize," arguing that it's "a generation of younger workers less familiar with unions that have built personal brands that they can transfer to other media companies … then writers are willing to devote long hours to moderate pay until they are poached by another place, which is the only way to get a pay raise, anyway. "
But they are not so willing to do it anymore. Online journalists have gotten tired of constant layoffs in the industry and unbearable wages in expensive cities. Gawker's very public organizing process in 2015 sparked a movement. Staff members at sites such as Vice, ThinkProgress, HuffPost, Thrillist, Mic, and the Intercept were soon unionized.
"In total, the number of unionized workers in the Internet publication has increased 20-fold since 2010," according to a report in the Harvard Business Review. This is an astonishing increase and in most cases companies have quickly recognized the unions of their employees.
The benefits of unionization, which guarantees severance pay and annual wage increases, became more evident only in the series of layoffs in recent months. This prompted BuzzFeed journalists to organize; They voted in favor of organizing in February, just after the company fired 40 journalists. But it's more than that.
"We have legitimate grievances about unfair wage disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, low benefits, unprecedented health insurance costs, diversity and so much more," the union wrote in announcing its launch.
Society, on the other hand, does not seem happy with organizing efforts. In April, managers interrupted a scheduled meeting with union representatives. Employees shamed them on social media, as did New York Mayor Bill de Blasio.
At the union: This city is with you.
At the direction: Come. AT. The. Table.
– Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 4, 2019
Since then, both parties have met and discussed the size of the unit. Meanwhile, employees are fed up and are ready to disrupt their activities to get their message across. Since 2 pm Monday, no new news has been posted on BuzzFeed News.