Digital workers at Al Jazeera America have voted to go union and thus join editorial workers at Gawker Media, Vice, Salon and The Guardian in what’s a modest but clear recent pro-labor trend.
The unit comprises 50 workers, mostly in New York City, with the company late Tuesday dropping a challenge to whether nine editors should be included in the bargaining unit.
The vote was 32 to 5 for joining the NewsGuild of New York. The National Labor Relations Board supervised the election, its first such involvement at any of the recently-unionized digital operations.
“It’s too bad that this great day for AJAM journalists has been tainted by management’s opposition to giving nine senior members of its digital newsroom a greater say in how the newsroom operates,” Peter Szekely, president of the NewsGuild of New York, said several hours before the company dropped the challenge.
Management said, “Our priority was to ensure that every employee of Al Jazeera America’s Digital Department could have a say about union representation and we respect the decision they have reached through this democratic vote. We look forward to concluding a collective bargaining agreement and will continue to work closely with all of our staff to make working at AJAM a positive experience.”
It later added:
“Our priority was to ensure that every employee of Al Jazeera America’s Digital Department could have a say about union representation and we respect the decision they have reached through this democratic vote. We welcome the result of the election and now that the process has been completed we will not maintain our challenge to the status of the nine individuals in question. We warmly recognize them as members of the bargaining unit and we look forward to working with all our staff in an open and transparent manner.”
The 2,800-member union local mostly represents editorial employees in New York, including at The New York Times and Reuters, among others. It’s one of three related New York-based locals that also represent media workers at operations including The Guardian and Dow Jones.
Those locals are part of the 26,000-member Newspaper Guild and the 600,000-member parent organization, the Communications Workers of America.
A staff statement by Al Jazeera American digital workers said they were “thrilled that today’s vote affirms what we already knew: that the overwhelming majority of our newsroom supports organizing with the NewsGuild of New York. This gives all of us — workers and management — the opportunity to produce cutting-edge, award-winning journalism in a workplace committed to honesty, integrity and transparency.”
“We look forward to sitting down with management to negotiate our first collective bargaining agreement. Unfortunately, Al Jazeera has yet to demonstrate the same enthusiasm.”
The only place where actual bargaining is now taking place on an initial contract is Gawker.