Shortly after BuzzFeed News employees revealed that they had voted to unionize, their editor-in-chief said the company wants to meet with them to discuss voluntary recognition. Employees announced today that they are organizing as the BuzzFeed News Union in the New York NewsGuild.
“Our staff have been organizing for several months and we have legitimate complaints about unfair wage disparities, mismanaged layoffs and layoffs, weak benefits, ever-higher health insurance costs, diversity, and more,” reads a mission statement published in the BuzzFeed News Union site. He adds that employees have been meeting for years and increased their efforts last fall when BuzzFeed laid off the video employees and their podcast team. Organizing efforts gained more urgency two weeks ago, when BuzzFeed cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 250 jobs.
BuzzFeed News deputy news editor Jason Wells reports that the publication’s editor-in-chief, Ben Smith, told employees that “we look forward to meeting with organizers to discuss a way to voluntarily recognize your union.”
Just hours after we made our union effort public, @buzzfeedben has responded to our demand for voluntary recognition. @bfnewsunion pic.twitter.com/rgXitJyBcF
– Davey Alba (@daveyalba) February 13, 2019
Wells’ notes that BuzzFeed News is “on track to be one of the last major newsrooms to come together in the wake of industry pressures that have reduced many media outlets.” Other outlets with new employee unions include HuffPost and the Los Angeles Times. The New York NewsGuild also represents the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast, and the Los Angeles Times.
In their mission statement, BuzzFeed News Union organizers said they want an agreement that “requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable separation amid layoffs, a competitive 401 (k), rights to our creative works and affordable health insurance ”.
It also asks BuzzFeed News management to address pay gaps and treat contract employees, or “permalancers, who are paid through a third party but who are functional members of our team,” the same treatment as other employees. .
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti said during a company meeting in 2015 that he did not believe that “a union is right for BuzzFeed,” although his recent response to employees demanding that the company compensate colleagues fired for the Unused paid time off makes it a signal more conciliatory approach. After the meeting, BuzzFeed News paid for all unused vacation and compensation days to laid off staff, even in states where they are not legally required to do so.