UPDATED with additional details: News writers and producers at MSNBC have voted overwhelmingly to be represented by the WGA East for the purpose of collective bargaining. The vote, which was conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, was 141 and 58 opposed. The 300-member bargaining unit includes writers, producers, booking producers, and other editorial staff at every program airing on MSNBC and The Choice on Peacock. The network and the union are now expected to sit down at the bargaining table to work out a first-time contract.
The unionizing campaign was supported by many of the network’s hosts, including Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Joy Reid, Ali Velshi and Jonathan Capehart.
“We are so proud that MSNBC’s employees voted strongly in favor of unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East for the purpose of collective bargaining,” said Lowell Peterson, the guild’s executive director. “The organizing campaign at MSNBC took over a year of intense work that saw every sector of our union, from screenwriters to digital news members, join together to deliver a resounding victory. We look forward to getting to the bargaining table.”
“Victory!” proclaimed the MSNBC Organizing Committee. “This victory is the first of its kind in cable news and we are so proud of what we’ve all accomplished together. A big thank you to our fellow union members in the Writers Guild, across media, and the entire labor movement. We are also deeply appreciative of our MSNBC coworkers, hosts, regular contributors, and the elected officials who supported us along the way. We now look forward to constructive, good faith negotiations with MSNBC management to make this an even better place to work – with input from all of us. This is who we are.”
MSNBC president Rashida Jones told her staff today that “The National Labor Relations Board has counted the ballots and the union election results are in. As you may have seen, the results of today’s vote count reflect that the majority of those who voted decided in favor of being represented by the Writers Guild of America East. The tally reflected 141 votes for union representation and 58 votes against union representation.
“The Writers Guild of America East will now be the representative of full-time and regular-part time employees employed by MSNBC who work on programs produced by MSNBC intended for initial distribution on the network or Peacock’s The Choice from MSNBC. This includes line producers, segment producers, booking producers, producers, associate producers, and production assistants. Senior Producers and anyone who is in a supervisory or managerial role are among those who are not part of the unit.
“As I have shared since the beginning of this process, I am glad we held an election, which gave everyone affected by this process the opportunity to have their voice heard. Over the last six months, I have heard from many of you about your pride for MSNBC, your dedication to the network, and your excitement for the future of this organization.
“I know there were people who were supportive of the union efforts, and others who did not want to be represented by the union. As we all move forward, we’re committed to working together as one unified organization where we’ll continue to respect, support and collaborate with one another, and foster a culture that makes us all proud.”
She added that she and other member of management “are dedicated to continuing to make this a place where we are all proud to work.”
The guild had called on MSNBC to voluntarily recognize it as the bargaining representative of the newsroom staff, but MSNBC preferred to put the matter to an NLRB-supervised vote.
“I respect our employees’ right to decide whether they want to be represented by a union,” Jones said in June 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 representational election comes as the WGA East is considering spinning off its digital news writers into their own union, but the MSNBC employees wouldn’t be part of that group, but rather, are part of the union’s broadcast news sector.
The WGAE represents nearly 7,000 writers in film, television, news (broadcast and digital), and podcasts. In addition to MSNBC, it represents newsrooms at 1010 WINS, ABC News, Bustle Digital Group, CBS News, CBSN, Chalkbeat, Committee to Protect Journalists, The Dodo, 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.