Quarterly Business Magazine

BuzzFeed Agrees to Recognize Union After Monthslong Standoff

Posted :
Sunday, July 21, 2019

BuzzFeed Inc. agreed to voluntarily recognize an employee union, ending a standoff that included a walkout and months of negotiations.

After Bloomberg reported on the accord Friday, the union confirmed the agreement in a tweet.

“We’re excited to share that we have reached a voluntary recognition agreement with BuzzFeed,” the union said. “On Tuesday, a third party will conduct a card check. Once that’s completed, our union will be certified. And we can’t wait to celebrate our victory once it’s official!”

BuzzFeed News employees walked off the job last month to push for union recognition, citing mismanagement, pay disparities and job cuts. Despite four months of negotiations, employees and management hadn’t agreed on which workers should be eligible to be part of the new bargaining unit -- a question that unions and companies frequently spar over.

BuzzFeed News staffers announced their organizing campaign in February, saying they would seek better benefits and fair pay after seeing some colleagues lose their jobs the prior month. The deal is part of a unionizing wave across the digital-media landscape.

“Everything we are demanding is already in line with BuzzFeed’s values,” the organizing committee said in a statement earlier this year. “We want to remain spry and competitive, but we reject the argument that we must choose between freelancing in a hellscape gig economy for vampirical platforms or submitting to the whims of a corporation that botches basic HR tasks.”

Read more about journalism’s worst year of job cuts since the recession

In January, BuzzFeed eliminated 15% of its headcount, part of a surge of layoffs at media outlets this year. Online publishers like BuzzFeed, once the darlings of the media industry, have struggled to find profitable business models.

The industry tumult has led journalists at several media outlets to press for collective bargaining. While that hasn’t prevented cutbacks, it has in some cases cushioned the blow. For instance, agreements can help ensure that workers who lose their jobs get severance pay.

BuzzFeed’s union said Friday it was “disappointed” that it took so long to be recognized.

“We’re excited to begin bargaining towards our first contract,” the group said. “We see this as a new opportunity for BuzzFeed to do right by its workers.”

By Gerry Smith

(Bloomberg) 

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