MSNBC News Writers & Producers Unionize With WGA East

By David Robb, Ted Johnson

MSNBC staff unionizes with WGA East

MSNBC’s newsroom employees have unionized with the WGA East.

The organizing effort includes the news writers, producers, booking producers, fact checkers and planners at every program airing on the cable news outlet including The Rachel Maddow Show, Deadline Whitehouse, All In with Chris Hayes, The Reidout, Morning Joe, Politics Nation, The Beat with Ari Melber, MSNBC Reports, MTP Daily, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams, The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell and Way Too Early with Kasie Hunt.

Two other shows – Zerlina, hosted by Zerlina Maxwell, and The Mehdi Hasan Show – which air on the Choice, an MSNBC-produced news channel on Peacock’s streaming service, also are included in the organizing drive.

The WGA East says that 204 of the 315-member bargaining unit have signed a petition to recognize the guild as their bargaining representative and that more are expected to sign up in the coming days.

MSNBC voluntarily can recognize the guild as the bargaining representative for its newsroom staffs and begin contract negotiations or insist that an election be held that would be supervised by the National Labor Relations Board to see if a majority of the employees really want to be represented by the guild. The guild wants voluntary recognition, but MSNBC president Rashida Jones says she wants an election.

Lowell Peterson, the guild’s executive director, called on MSNBC to recognize the WGA East voluntarily as the bargaining representative of the newsroom employees. “We hope and expect MSNBC to remain true to its commitment to progressive values by respecting its employees’ decision and recognizing our union promptly,” he said. “We are proud that the hard-working newsroom employees at MSNBC decided to unionize with the WGAE. They join thousands of their colleagues in the news and entertainment industries who recognize that collective bargaining is the most effective way to win a voice at work and to build sustainable careers.”

NBC News’ Rashida Jones NBC News

Jones, however, said that the matter should be decided by an NLRB-supervised election. “I respect our employees’ right to decide whether they want to be represented by a union,” she said in a message to her staff, “and I believe our employees should be able to make such an important decision through a standard election process. An election supervised by the government allows all affected employees the chance to express their view on unionizing through a secret ballot. It is important to give everyone who would be included the chance to understand what this would mean before making their choice.”

The bargaining unit says it wants MSNBC to recognize the guild and begin bargaining for a first-ever contract. “We are calling on the network to recognize our union and we are looking forward to constructive negotiations over the issues that are important to all of us,” they said in a statement. “An overwhelming majority of our coworkers at MSNBC have signed a petition for union recognition to join over 7,000 members of the WGAE, which includes thousands of journalists working in cable, broadcast, and digital media. At a time when journalists and journalism itself are under siege, we want to join our peers who have paved the road before us in standing up for our rights.”

They also put out a statement about why they are unionizing. “We organized because our work is more vital now than ever. We organized because our voices must be heard in the newsroom for the future of our industry. We organized because we want to guarantee diversity in our newsroom, at every level of production. We organized because we want to ensure that every employee is paid fairly for their work and has access to career development. We organized because we want every employee to have access to benefits that meet our families’ needs and reflect our contributions. We organized because we want to make sure workers have a say in what a post-Covid-19 workplace looks like. We organized because we believe every employee should be fairly compensated for the hours they spend working to deliver the news. We organized because we want to ensure that employees are treated equally and paid equally for equal work. We are standing up for each other and our work – because this is who we are.”

The guild already represents the staffs CBS News and ABC News, as well as at dozens of other news outlets, including 1010 WINS, Bustle Digital Group, CBSN, Chalkbeat, Committee to Protect Journalists, Entercom (WCBS-AM, WBBM-AM, KNX-AM), Fast Company, Fox 5 WNYW-TV, FT Specialist, Future Plc, Gizmodo Media Group, Hearst Magazines, HuffPost, Inc., The Intercept, Jewish Currents, MTV News, NowThis, Onion Inc., Refinery29, Salon, Slate, Talking Points Memo, Thirteen Productions (Thirteen/WNET), Thrillist, Vice, Vox Media and WBBM-CBS 2 News.

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