BuzzFeed News Employees Walk Out to Demand Recognition of Union
New York, June 17 – Editorial staffers of BuzzFeed News plan to walk out of their newsroom on Monday at 2 p.m. to demand voluntary recognition of their union, The NewsGuild of New York. The walkout is planned for all four U.S. bureaus of BuzzFeed News — N.Y., D.C., L.A. and S.F.
Employees in New York plan to hold a rally in front of the BuzzFeed office at 111 East 18th Street. They will be joined by NewsGuild of New York members and supporters.
In February, employees announced that they had formed a union with the NewsGuild of New York, CWA Local 31003 and requested voluntary recognition. Over 90% of eligible editorial employees signed on to the union effort and delivered their request to Editor in Chief Ben Smith.
After four months of often tense negotiations with BuzzFeed’s representatives, employees are demanding that management return to the table and resume negotiations towards a Voluntary Recognition Agreement. After employees announced their unionization on February 12th, BuzzFeed management indicated that they were prepared to recognize their employees’ union. Instead, over the course of several in-person meetings, BuzzFeed management refused to recognize the bargaining unit employees had proposed, and insisted on a far narrower scope of eligibility for the union. Throughout the process, BuzzFeed has attempted to exclude workers they claim are managerial, supervisory, or confidential despite the fact that these journalists neither manage employees nor are privy to confidential information.
“I am beyond proud to call the extremely talented journalists at BuzzFeed News my colleagues. My colleagues and I are doing this because we care so much about each other and want our newsroom to succeed,” said Davey Alba, BuzzFeed News Technology Reporter. “Unionizing should be seen as the tide that lifts all boats for workers at this company, something I am not sure management has grasped yet. After four months, I hope we will finally see management recognize our union on fair terms.”
"As someone who’s worked at BuzzFeed for more than six years, I’m deeply invested in the company and its future — which is exactly why I’m so invested in the newsroom unionizing,” said BuzzFeed News Deputy Culture Editor, Rachel Sanders. “I wish BuzzFeed management could see this as an opportunity to show that they respect and value their employees, rather than reacting out of fear, and I hope they come back to the table so we can have a real conversation."
“Our members have grown tired of management stalling, and demand they return to the table in good faith,” said Grant Glickson, President of the NewsGuild of New York. “The BuzzFeed newsroom has the full support of the entire NewsGuild membership, and we are with them every step of the way.”
The NewsGuild-CWA is the largest union for media professionals in the country, representing 24,000 members across the country, including The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The New Yorker, Thomson Reuters, The Nation, The New Republic and The Daily Beast.
Full text of the BuzzFeed News Organizing Committee statement below:
“BuzzFeed News Is Unionizing And Honestly It’s About Damn Time
BuzzFeed News is a critical player in the American news landscape thanks to our tireless staff. We break some of the biggest stories in news, politics, tech, science, and entertainment; publish incisive analysis of our culture; and diagnose what makes the internet tick.
But it's not all fun and memes. Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more.
So we're forming a union of US news employees with the NewsGuild of New York, which has a proven history of negotiating contracts at other vanguard reporting outlets, including the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast, and Los Angeles Times.
Our goals: to protect each other, reach a collective bargaining agreement, and make this company stronger. We will fight like hell for a fair deal while striving for a positive relationship with management — get you a union who can do both.
We believe in this company, and in our management, even though they’ve fucked up a few times. BuzzFeed recently laid off about 15% of its workforce, and it was, uh, not handled great. But the overwhelming majority of employees are still here. Those who didn't get laid off last month fought for fair severance agreements for our peers, because we know this company is at its best when we advocate for one another.
This organizing effort was underway well before the recent layoffs. We’ve been meeting for years, and after BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and our beloved podcast team last fall, our efforts ramped up — precisely because we think our terms of employment, such as severance, should be set in advance, not hastily arranged in a dramatic spectacle.
Our staff is uniting to demand a contract that guarantees paid time off is actually paid. We demand an agreement that requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable severance amid layoffs, a competitive 401(k), rights to our creative works, and affordable health insurance. We believe it’s urgent that our management address unfair pay disparities. We also believe that employees on contract — permalancers, who are paid through a third party but are functionally members of our team — deserve the same treatment.
Like the nation's great newspapers, BuzzFeed News bundles content, from the hilarious and fun to intensely reported investigations. This workforce is a juggernaut. We’ve helped transform media by syncing up with social platforms and speaking the language of the internet, while proving that rigorous accountability journalismcan happen online. The haters who disregard BuzzFeed News as trivial — from politicians to media dinosaurs — do so at their own peril. We will dog walk you.
Our CEO, Jonah Peretti, recently suggested that merging with other digital media companies might strengthen our hand against social media platforms (which increasingly depend on free content from creators and influencers), and yup, we get why. Given the track record of salaried workers getting the shaft during big transitions, however, we want to make sure workers have some stability if that happens.
Unionizing is right for BuzzFeed News. Everything we are demanding is already in line with BuzzFeed’s values. We want to remain spry and competitive, but we reject the argument that we must choose between freelancing in a hellscape gig economy for vampirical platforms or submitting to the whims of a corporation that botches basic HR tasks.
The economics of labor don't vanish simply because we make content for the internet. We are reporters, producers, artists, designers, administrators, and editors. Professionals need to live and provide for their families. The real risk to BuzzFeed News would be failing to evolve, and failing to meet the needs of its grown-up workforce.
We must be nimble, but not at the cost of treating people like they’re disposable. We should help projects succeed and allow staffers to pivot to other parts of the company if projects don't work out, or guarantee they get a good deal on their way out.
Our success as a newsroom is thanks in part to management's commitment to cover areas that some outlets (not naming names here!) have considered niche — such as reporting on communities of color, religious minorities, women, and LGBT people. We have proved this coverage is the lifeblood of major national conversations. And yet, we worry that during times of intense change, the staff who are part of these communities are not retained or treated as well as they should be. We must enforce the company's pledge to diversity. Our audience is counting on us.
We are proud to join dozens of legacy publications and digital outlets that have unionized to build stronger newsrooms, and in doing so, we hope to leave a legacy for the workers who will organize after us.
We also support other parts of BuzzFeed unionizing, if they want to — ultimately it’s their decision, not ours. The BuzzFeed News Union makes this pledge to our peers: We will stand by you and help you any way we can. The news division relies on other parts of our company, and we're grateful for all of our colleagues.
Organizing can be adversarial, but it must always be respectful and understanding. We are facilitating a long overdue conversation with a goal of making everyone better off.
We demand that BuzzFeed News recognizes our union immediately so that we can swiftly reach a mutually satisfying contract that lets us focus on the important work of reporting on Cardi B memes and breaking the biggest stories in the country.”
More information can be found at buzzfeednewsunion.com
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