Labor issues


As BuzzFeed urges no unions, sharp rebuttal from labor leader

Jonah Peretti, founder of BuzzFeed, cautioned workers against embracing unionization last week. The comments weren’t made in a vacuum, given moves by employees at Gawker Media, VICE, Salon and the Guardian to unionize in recent months. He suggested that unions represented a needlessly adversarial force and are more suited to other sorts of workplaces—more blue-collar, more assembly-line oriented—than a “new economy” upstart like BuzzFeed. And, for sure, his entrepreneurial creation is on the rise, as underscored by a $200 million investment from NBCUniversal, a unit of cable giant Comcast. Old economy stalwarts cringe with envy.

President of The Newspaper Guild, Bernie Lunzer

President of The Newspaper Guild, Bernie Lunzer

Bernard Lunzer respectfully disagrees with Peretti. He’s president of The Newspaper Guild, the largest union of media workers. He represents about 26,000 workers at about 300 different media entities, including workers at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, St. Read more


Salon agrees to recognize union, starts negotiations on contract

Management at San Francisco-based Salon Media has agreed to start talks on a first union contract with its workers, it was disclosed Saturday.

“Salon Media has agreed to recognize the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) as the collective bargaining representative of its editorial staff, whose decision to unionize was unanimous,” the union said in a formal statement.

Workers voted last month to join a union. The company could have forced a formal vote overseen by a third party or perhaps otherwise stalled union recognition. It did not, which now triggers the process of attempting to bargain a first contract.

“The men and women who write, edit, and produce stories for have gained a voice on the job, and the intelligence and unity they have brought to the project is an inspiration,” said Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East. Read more


Guardian US editorial staff move to unionize

The Huffington Post

Guardian US announced a move to unionize in an independent ballot conducted by the American Arbitration Association, on Wednesday. The company would be unionizing under the News Media Guild – an operation that represents over 2,000 digital workers at news publications.

“This is a big day not only for the writers and staff members at The Guardian US but for the news industry as a whole. Digital media is growing up, and it’s time our digital reporters received the same benefits and protections as their print media colleagues,” said Bernard Lunzer, president of The NewsGuild-CWA.

Guardian US is the latest addition to the list of digital only publications including Gawker and Salon that decided to unionize last month.

While Guardian US will be unionizing under the News Media Guild, Gawker and Salon unionized with Writers Guild of America, East. Read more


AFL-CIO chief asks Salon to voluntarily recognize workers’ union

America’s top labor leader is asking Salon to voluntarily recognize the Writers Guild of America, East as bargaining agent for its editorial workers.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka wrote Salon Media Group CEO Cindy Jeffers on Thursday, requesting Salon voluntarily recognizes the union and not force a formal representation election.

Most of the staff has signed up with the union, which is the same one that won a recent representation election at Gawker Media. Gawker is now in the earliest stages of a process that will prompt negotiations over a first contract.

If the company does not voluntarily recognize the union, it would trigger a traditional representation election, such as the one held at Gawker Media. The vote would be supervised by either the National Labor Relations Board or perhaps a third party mediator agreed to by both sides. Read more


Philly’s new union deals: What do they mean? A union view

Related: Philly’s labor talks: What do they mean? A management view

howginslerWorkers at voted 30-1 late Wednesday to ratify a new two-year contract with management. The contract is similar to a related one bargained by their union, the Newspaper Guild, and ratified by the more than 400 workers at the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. They key elements are improved management contributions to health care plans, greater company flexibility in layoffs when it comes to seniority, and no increase in base wages.

I spoke with Daily News columnist Howard Gensler, part of the union bargaining team, about the negotiations, the changes they reflect and their potential relevance to previously non-union online news organizations now interested in collective bargaining, notably Gawker Media and Salon.

1. Read more


Philly’s labor talks: What do they mean? A management view

Related: Philly’s new union deals: What do they mean? A union view

Stan Wischnowski

Stan Wischnowski

A key figure for management in the just-concluded and ratified new two-year contracts at the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and is Stan Wischnowski, who is vice president for news operations at The Inquirer, Daily News, and Bargaining in an age of increasing fragmentation and austerity is not easy, especially at big-city dailies. The two new deals were concluded Wednesday with Newspaper Guild ratification of the second of two agreements. They include increased company contributions to health care plans, greater flexibility when it comes to traditionally seniority-driven layoffs and no increase in basic wages.

1. What’s the importance of the labor agreements in Philadelphia?

These were very difficult negotiations for everyone involved and that cannot be overstated. Read more


A union revolution at Gawker isn’t quite around the corner

Screengrab from

Screengrab from

The June 3 vote by editorial employees at Gawker Media to join a union was greeted with much fanfare. It was, after all, a distinct rarity in the digital media world.

Now comes the laborious part.

As reiterated by senior writer Hamilton Nolan, a fairly lengthy process typical to the early stages of any prospective unionization move is now triggered.

It includes finding representatives from each individual Gawker site to comprise a bargaining committee to represent the 118 covered employees.

When that’s done, there will be detailed discussions among that group on an agenda for negotiations.

What specific matters are most important to those representatives? One size may not fit all, so perhaps some topics are more germane to one group than they are to another. Read more

On Oct. 31, 2008, the Washington Post building is seen in Washington. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Washington Post, Guild reach tentative agreement

Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild News Co-Chair Fredrick Kunkle says in a Facebook post that The Washington Post and its union members “have reached tentative agreement on a new contract.” All Guild members will get a raise under the proposed agreement.

Among the deal points: Departing employees will still get two weeks’ pay for each year they’ve worked at the Post, and a guarantee that laid-off employees can either return to work “when economic conditions improve —or, as is more often the case, negotiate a fair buyout that allows a person time to recover after permanently giving up his or her job.”

The Guild thanks “Post’s management—and particularly its new owner, Jeffrey Bezos–for reaching a fair agreement.”

Full posting: Read more

Stack of newspapers

Star-Ledger publisher threatens to close paper

The Star-Ledger

Publisher Richard Vezza says he’ll shut down The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger at the end of 2013 if it can’t come to an agreement with one of the four unions at the paper, Kelly Heyboer reports.

The Advance-owned paper’s newsroom isn’t a union shop, but its pressmen, engravers, machinists and mailers — who “handle the newspapers after they emerge from the presses, helping insert advertising supplements and preparing the papers to be loaded on delivery trucks” — have unions. Negotiations with all but the mailers have been fruitful: Read more


Washington Post Guild: ‘The Post would like to fire you’

The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild says a Washington Post proposal for a new agreement with the union “would give managers the power to fire anyone for any reason” and also inserts a “poison pill that would make it even harder for the union to collect dues at the end of the next contract.”

Its proposal says management “reserves the right to terminate an employee for attendance and performance problems” without a written warning and a suspension as is currently required, “in appropriate cases.”

Another proposal, the bulletin says, would “eliminate important layoff provisions.” Read more

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