A welcome trend created headlines and a buzz in media circles this summer. Journalists and media colleagues at five U.S. workplaces including several high-profile digital media organizations voted to join unions.
Over a few sunny summer months, 118 writers at Gawker Media, 26 editorial staffers at Salon.com, 45 at the Guardian U.S., followed by workers at Vice Media (after reports of ill-treatment and low wages).
The most recent, AL Jazeera America (digital) has petitioned to join The NewsGuild, which like CMG is part of CWA (Communication Workers of America), the largest communication and media union in the U.S.
For New York City-based E. Tammy Kim, features staff writer at Al Jazeera America, “Joining a union is wonderful. It shows a consensus among young people and workers in new media that we have the same issues as traditional media, and we too need a collective voice.”
In the case of Al Jaz, the decision came after workers at the network experienced a “troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress.”
According to Tammy, “The economy has moved into a state where there is precarious and contingent employment, so people are seen as disposable. Digital workers are no different from other media workers. We too need a place where we can come together, protect each other and have input into the work and other things we care about. We see the role of a union as empowering us in all those areas.”
Is this the beginning of a trend for media workers on all platforms? We like to think so. Certainly, today’s media workers are the most educated, multi-skilled ever, ambitious, talented and yes sometimes impatient. Like the rest of us working in media, they want careers with longevity, decent pay, opportunities and rewarding work, doing what they love.
Gawker workers put it this way: “We would like to ensure everyone receives a salary that is fair for their time at the company, and the work they do, (…) to ensure that things like pay and raises are set in a fair, transparent and unbiased way.”
Also inspiring is a focus on broader economic justice: “Unions have evolved to become more progressive, and community aware, increasingly working on social justice issues that make everyone’s lives better. It shows unions are not just about direct services to members, but about making the community and everyone’s living conditions better. That’s a big part of it for a lot of us,” says Tammy
Can Canada be far behind?
National President, CMG