NBC News Digital is poised to join newsrooms across the country in being unionized by one of two unions vying to represent editorial staffs. The WGA East and the NewsGuild have made major inroads in recent years, organizing reporters and editors employed in a wide range of digital shops, major magazines and newspapers.
The NewsGuild, an affiliate of the Communication Workers of America, reached a tentative agreement earlier this month with the Los Angeles Times to represent some 475 of its reporters and editors – the paper’s first newsroom contract since it began publishing in 1881. And today, the NewsGuild of New York announced that 75% of the 150-member editorial staff of NBC News Digital has asked the company to voluntarily recognize it as their collective bargaining representative. The bargaining unit would include staffers from NBCNews.com, Today.com, StayTuned, Left Field, MSNBC.com, and NBC News Now. According to the NewsGuild, about 75% of their editorial staffs signed a petition seeking union representation.
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“The employees of NBC News are standing up for their newsroom,” said Grant Glickson, president of The NewsGuild of New York. “Management has a lot to prove to its staff. We urge NBC to recognize the union in order to start building back the trust of the staff and fostering a productive and collaborative bargaining relationship.”
NBC News Digital said it’s taking their request seriously. “Earlier today, some of our colleagues requested that the company voluntarily recognize the NewsGuild for a portion of the staff within NBC News Digital,” said Chris Berend, executive vice president of digital for NBC News Group, in an email to the staff. “As we all know, similar discussions have taken place across many digital newsrooms over the past few years. I want you to know we are deeply committed to a fair and healthy workplace for all our employees. We welcome this dialogue from within our digital organization, and any constructive conversation aimed at building the future of NBC News Digital and ensuring that we’re the best we can be. We will address this request quickly, and will keep you updated every step of the way. As always, my door is open.”
The NewsGuild’s organizing effort comes on the heels of successful campaigns in newsrooms across the country, including many that were voluntarily recognized by management. They include The New Yorker, New York Magazine, BuzzFeed News, The New Republic, Mashable, PCMag, Pitchfork, Ars Technica, and Quartz, among others.
The Writers Guild of America East, meanwhile, has also made significant strides in its own campaign to organize news staffs. Yesterday, the guild delivered a petition signed by more than 75 writers on CBS and Showtime TV shows in support of a fair contract for their fellow writers employed on the newly unionized staff of CBSN, CBS News’ streaming news network. The petition was delivered to management at ViacomCBS by WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson on the fifth consecutive day of collective bargaining. In February, CBSN became the first major digital live-streaming news service to unionize, and the parties have been in negotiations since June.
“We are one union,” Peterson said. “The solidarity of our members who craft drama and comedy means a lot to our unit members at CBSN, who are gearing up for a busy 2020 and expect their real concerns to be addressed by the company.”
The nearly 6,000-member WGA East also represents news staffs at ABC News, WNYW, WBBM-AM, WCBS-AM, and 1010 WINS, as well as digital-first staffs at Salon, Slate, HuffPost, MTV News, VICE, Vox Media, The Dodo, Fast Company, Gizmodo Media Group, Intercept, Onion Inc., Refinery29, Talking Points Memo, ThinkProgress, and Thrillist.
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