BuzzFeed News Employees Walk Out, Demand Union Recognition

June 18, 2019 – Employees of BuzzFeed News walked out of their newsroom on June 17 and held a spirited rally outside the publication’s New York office to demand union recognition.

The rally took place four months after Editor in Chief Ben Smith claimed management looked forward to meeting with organizers “to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”

Instead, management has refused to recognize the bargaining unit employees proposed, and has insisted on a far narrower scope of eligibility for the union. BuzzFeed managers have attempted to exclude workers they claim are managerial, supervisory, or confidential, despite the fact that the journalists neither manage employees nor are privy to confidential information, organizers said.

Management has also sought to limit union membership to specific job titles – which means employees could easily be promoted, or laterally transferred, out of union membership, staffers told Columbia Journalism Review. It also means that management could hire people under a title not covered by the union: “writer,” instead of “reporter,” for example.

BuzzFeed employees were joined at the rally by NewsGuild members at the New York Times, New Republic, Reuters, Law360, Ziff Davis Creators Guild and others, as well as Scabby, the inflatable rat that is a fixture at labor rallies in and around the city. Walkouts were also held at BuzzFeed’s offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

“I am beyond proud to call the extremely talented journalists at BuzzFeed News my colleagues. My colleagues and I are doing this because we care so much about each other and want our newsroom to succeed,” said Davey Alba, BuzzFeed News Technology Reporter.

“Unionizing should be seen as the tide that lifts all boats for workers at this company, something I am not sure management has grasped yet. After four months, I hope we will finally see management recognize our union on fair terms.”

Staffers at BuzzFeed announced their intention to join the New York Local of The NewsGuild-CWA, on Feb. 12.

The walkout and rally also generated coverage on CNN Business and Bloomberg.

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