From The Hollywood Reporter | 'People' Digital Team Declares Intention to Form a Union
Ninety-six percent of the brand's digital group employees nationwide who are eligible have signed cards indicating their interest in organizing.
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to lead to furloughs and layoffs at news organizations, People's digital team has announced its intention to form a union, joining its print division, which is already unionized.
96 percent of People's digital group employees nationwide who are eligible have signed cards indicating their interest in forming a union with the NewsGuild, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The proposed union would cover all 49 of People's digital employees, who work in New York, Los Angeles and in remote locations.
The print side of People, which has 69 members, unionized with the NewsGuild in the 1970s. No other Meredith Corp. brands are currently unionized with the organization, which also is the bargaining representative for the Boston Globe, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and Time magazine, among other members.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Meredith Corp. for a statement.
According to current staffers who spoke with THR, the digital team is seeking to organize in part to achieve parity with print staffers, who receive separate severance benefits and have guaranteed annual wage increases, not just incremental cost-of-living bumps. (Currently, digital employees have two weeks of severance per year employed, without guarantees, while print employees have more weeks of severance per every year employed and a retraining allowance written into their contract.) "Just seeing the state of the industry in today's day and age, I thought it was kind of crazy to me that our print employees were in a union but the digital employees weren't protected," says senior audience engagement editor Ariel Nagi, who notes she is the mother of two small children. Interest in "job growth" is one of her major reasons for supporting unionization.
But the instability of news media jobs during the coronavirus crisis has expedited the unionization effort, which began about six months ago, employees added. Though publishers saw a major increase in digital traffic to their sites in the early weeks of the pandemic, advertising revenue that many relied upon to meet their bottom lines tanked as companies thin marketing budgets and shy away from shilling their products on pandemic-related stories. Over 100 publications have seen pay cuts, furloughs and layoffs since the crisis began, according to journalism nonprofit Poynter, even as many remain extremely busy with covering the pandemic.
Meredith itself announced on April 20 that it was going to implement a "series of operational cost-control measures" including reducing Board of Directors fees, executive and salaried employee salaries and production costs and other expenses.
Digital writer/reporter Alexia Fernandez says that the coronavirus pandemic "lit that fire a little bit more" to move ahead on organizing. "Staying at home and having our personal lives and professional lives come together in one space, we realized we just want to secure our incomes, we want to take care of our loved ones and also we want to make sure that we're covered, cared for and protected and that we won't be laid off [suddenly] if something goes wrong," she says.
The ball is now in Meredith's court to either voluntarily recognize the union or an election will be held with a state or federal labor board. "We all love our jobs and we love our company and all we're asking is for them to meet us across the table, meet us at the middle and create that dialogue that we're all seeking," Fernandez says. "We're just hoping to get voluntary recognition, that would be amazing."
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