Roughly 60 union workers at BuzzFeed News walked off the job Thursday, the same day shareholders voted on whether to take the company public.
The walkout comes after nearly two years of negotiations for a first contract. The BuzzFeed News Union is calling for higher wages, better health care, fewer restrictions on creative work done outside of the job and an end to disciplinary measures for employees who don’t meet traffic metrics.
“The company is currently targeting a $1.5 billion valuation. However, at the bargaining table, they continuously refuse to move on their proposal of mere 1% guaranteed wage increases per year and a salary floor of only $50k,” the union wrote in a press release. “That is not a sustainable living wage, and it is not enough to attract a true diverse talent pool that’s crucial to the future of BuzzFeed.”
BuzzFeed first announced plans to go public in June, when it said it would merge with 890 Fifth Avenue Partners, a special purpose acquisition company. BuzzFeed will also acquire media company Complex Networks for $300 million. If shareholders approve the merger, BuzzFeed could begin trading Monday.
In addition to higher pay, other key issues include creative control and discipline standards. BuzzFeed management has proposed a restrictive policy that would require employees to get approval for outside “content” work, the union said.
A BuzzFeed spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement that the company will address these issues soon.
“There’s a bargaining session planned for next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues,” the spokesperson wrote. “Before then, the company is gearing up for an incredibly exciting milestone: becoming the first publicly traded digital media company, and acquiring Complex Networks. We couldn’t be more excited about everything that lies ahead for BuzzFeed and its employees.”