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RELEASE - Al Jazeera America Digital Journalists Vote Overwhelmingly to Join Union

10/06/2015

Al Jazeera America digital journalists on Oct. 6, after a tally by the National Labor Relations Board's Manhattan office showed that an overwhelming majority of them voted for representation by The NewsGuild of New York. Later that day management agreed to include nine senior journalists, whom it had blocked from voting, in the represented group.

 

UPDATE 2: NewsGuild President Peter Szekely responds on Twitter (@nyguild):
"We are pleased [Al Jazeera] mgmt did the right thing and dropped their attempt to exclude 9 journos from joining union....Shows they want to start right. Hope it bodes well for negots."

UPDATE 1: A spokesperson has released the following statement from Al Jazeera management:
"Our priority was to ensure that every employee of Al Jazeera America’s Digital Department could have a say about union representation and we respect the decision they have reached through this democratic vote. We welcome the result of the election and now that the process has been completed we will not maintain our challenge to the status of the nine individuals in question. We warmly recognize them as members of the bargaining unit and we look forward to working with all our staff in an open and transparent manner."

 

For Immediate Release: Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Press inquiries contact: CJ Macklin, 646-335-0718 / Peter Szekely, 212-575-1580

 

Al Jazeera America Digital Journalists Vote
Overwhelmingly To Join The Newsguild Of Ny

Management Contests Rights of Nine Journalists
to Join Union; NewsGuild Vows to Defend Them

NEW YORK – An overwhelming majority of Al Jazeera America digital journalists on Tuesday voted for representation by The NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003. With the election, the staff of AJAM becomes the latest in a series of digital newsrooms to organize, but the first where management forced a government -supervised election, instead of voluntarily recognizing the union.

AJAM management is also contesting the rights of nine journalists to have union representation, despite declaring earlier that it would respect employees’ wishes. The nine journalists include team leaders and junior editors who do not have the power to hire or fire other staff – positions that Guild contracts cover in other newsrooms.  The Guild has vowed to defend the rights of the   nine journalists at the National Labor Relations Board if management refuses to accept them.

"This vote confirms what we already knew going into this process -- that we have overwhelming support in the newsroom for this union. Next we'll fight to make sure our union includes all of us, so we can get to work on our first contract." said Alex Newman, Assistant Multimedia Editor.

AJAM digital reporters announced their desire to unionize in September. Citing a deep commitment to Al Jazeera America’s mission of providing quality, cutting-edge journalism, and a desire for more consistent and transparent management practices, the vast majority of the digital staff petitioned management for representation with The NewsGuild. An NLRB-run election was then scheduled, with in-person voting taking place on Sept. 29 and mail-in ballots from staff outside of New York accepted through Oct. 5.

"We’re pleased to welcome Al Jazeera America’s digital journalists as our newest members, and we urge management to stop standing in the way of Guild representation for its more senior newsroom employees. It’s too bad that this great day for AJam journalists has been tainted by management’s opposition to giving nine senior members of its digital newsroom a greater say in how the newsroom operates,” said Peter Szekely, president of The NewsGuild of New York.

Full text of statement from Al Jazeera America Digital workers:

The staff of Al Jazeera America Digital is thrilled that today's vote affirms what we already knew: that the overwhelming majority of our newsroom supports organizing with the NewsGuild of New York. This gives all of us — workers and management — the opportunity to produce cutting-edge, award-winning journalism in a workplace committed to honesty, integrity and transparency.

We look forward to sitting down with management to negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately, Al Jazeera has yet to demonstrate the same enthusiasm.

Management is trying to exclude nine of our colleagues from the union, asserting that they are ineligible "supervisors." These nine team leads and editors carry the same workload and burdens as other staff, but Al Jazeera persists in trying to prevent these workers from participating in the democratic process.

This year has brought union representation to the digital newsrooms of Gawker, The Guardian, Salon, ThinkProgress and Vice — and at each of these, management realized the opportunities and benefits of embracing the will of its employees. We are disappointed that the leadership of Al Jazeera America chose a more oppositional path.

We who are tasked with telling the stories of our changing world must retain a voice ourselves. The smart and creative people committed to this mission deserve an environment that exemplifies the best practices of a modern, humane workplace and values diversity, equality and fairness.

 

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