Gawker | Capital New York

With days to go before a vote to determine whether Gawker Media will be the first large digital news organization to unionize, the choice appears to be a controversial one among staffers.

In a comment thread underneath an article inviting Gawker Media employees to justify their anticipated votes, employees cited a variety of reasons why they're voting not to unionize. Among them: Inadequate communication surrounding the unionization effort, disregard for off-site employees and a distaste for the administrative formalities that might accompany unionization.

In a lengthy reply listing reasons why he's choosing to vote against unionization, Deadspin columnist Drew Magary said the organization effort has caused "a galactic amount of acrimony" at the digital media company:

I’ve seen morale erode at an inhuman pace. People I love working with have been rendered unbearably tense. This has long been a place of healthy in-fighting, but this is not healthy. It’s become toxic. I’m not even [in] New York and I can see it. Not the best omen. Voting YES will not magically fix any of this. If anything, it feels like it will only make it worse. It’s been a clumsy effort, and it has shown no signs of growing any more efficient.

But the push for unionization seems to have gained traction with many of the company's employees, who provided explanations why they plan to vote in favor of the effort. They justified their impending yes votes by citing collective bargaining's empowering effect among staffers. Madeleine Davies, a staff writer at Jezebel, noted that the union would give Gawker Media writers legal leverage if things turned sour.

The fact of the matter is that Gawker Media is not our friend. Nick Denton might be our friend, the managers might be our friends, but Gawker Media—though a positive influence in our lives—is not. The company has a team of highly capable lawyers to protect it from legal threats (legal threats that could one day include a mistreated colleague). Joining the WGA would grant us our own legal protection if and when something ever goes wrong.

The union is a safety net. Things are good now. I am voting yes because I think the WGA can help us keep it that way.

Although employees at many legacy news organizations are represented by unions, digital news organizations have been slow to unionize. There are rumblings of unionization elsewhere, however: Mike Elk, who covers labor for Politico, announced early this year his intention to unionize that organization.