Newsletter: Miami walks out, Buzzfeed authorizes a strike and Condé union gets bigger

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Journalists at Condé Nast are forming a company-wide union that, once certified, will cover more than 500 media employees! The Condé Nast Union will represent workers at the firm’s iconic magazines, including Vogue, Bon Appétit, Vanity Fair, Architectural Digest, and GQ. It will be one of the biggest units in recent NewsGuild history.

Forming a single unit at a dozen Condé Nast publications reflects our increasing focus on organizing across media chains, which enables us to leverage our collective power most effectively.

Members of Condé Nast Union slammed the company for low pay, a lack of diversity and equity, heavy reliance on contract workers, and the absence of clear standards for performance evaluation and career development.

“There is no viable ‘future’ of Condé Nast if women and people of color continue to be used to fill a diversity quota,” says Cortni Spearman, social media senior manager at Glamour. “The only viable future at the company, and for this industry, is one where all workers have a strong stake in decisions that directly affect them.

Workers are also calling for more job security, higher pay, clearer paths to job advancement, and more workplace transparency. They are demanding a seat at the table to challenge corporate cost-cutting measures like layoffs, pay cuts and department consolidations

Workers at Conde Nast on March 29, 2022
Journalists of Condé Nast are forming a company-wide union.

Members of BuzzFeed News Union voted overwhelmingly last week to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike if management continues to bargain in bad faith. After more than two years of negotiating for a first contract — and threatened with mass layoffs — 90% of the unit participated in the balloting, with 91% voting to authorize a work stoppage.

Throughout negotiations members have engaged in escalating actions, including a one day walkout in December.

Last month, the company announced it would offer “voluntary buyouts” to one-third of the unit.

“Once again, it’s clear BuzzFeed management is still learning a fundamental truth about their newsroom: now that we have our union, the era of them making unilateral decisions that affect our work and our lives is over,” union members said in a statement.

Senior reporter Julia Reinstein said, “These ‘buyouts’ are, frankly, buyouts in name only. What the company is offering is scarcely better than severance, and it’s an insult to our colleagues, who have given so much to this newsroom for years.” Sign up here for updates.

BuzzFeed News Union members authorized their bargaining team to call a strike if management continues to bargain in bad faith.

Journalists at the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and the Bradenton Herald held a one-day work stoppage on Friday to demand a fair contract.

Two years after Herald journalists in Miami formed the One Herald Guild union, McClatchy still refuses to address basic issues like pay equity between English and Spanish-language journalists, experience-based salary floors, protections against outsourcing and improvements to their retirement plan. Bradenton journalists formed the Bradenton Herald NewsGuild in May 2020 and have since worked side-by-side with their Miami colleagues, asserting similar contract demands.

Severe disparities in pay between English-language journalists and Spanish-language journalists have existed for decades, said Aaron Leibowitz, a reporter for the Miami Herald. “It was one of the main reasons we organized the union.”

Low pay is a concern for journalists of both languages. Michael Butler, a real estate reporter, was the first in his family to go to college. His family and friends consider his job glamorous, he said, but he can’t afford to live on his own on the salary McClatchy pays him. Devoun Cetoute and Ana Chacin also said it was impossible to live independently in Miami on annual pay of $40,000.

Many great journalists have left the Heralds due to low pay, said Sarah Blaskey, an investigative reporter at the Miami Herald. “This is really about saving local news.”

Join the rest of the Guild in supporting them by donating to a GoFundMe account to cover pay the company withheld as a result of the walkout.

One Herald Guild members held a one-day work stoppage April 1 demanding a fair contract.

Hundreds of workers at Cineflix, a “factual TV” company, will share $2.5 million in a deal to settle a class-action lawsuit negotiated by CWA-Canada, our Canadian affiliate, and IATSE Canada. (“Factual TV” is known in the U.S. as “reality TV.”)

The suit was brought for years of unpaid overtime, vacation pay, and holiday premiums. The settlement follows three years of negotiations between the company, the law firm Cavalluzzo LLP and the unions.

Cineflix had a choice between paying $2.5 million or paying $1 million and signing a collective bargaining agreement with the unions. The company informed Cavalluzzo last week that it had chosen the first option and that the money has been placed in trust to pay workers.

The draft collective bargaining agreement “would have meant a slew of improvements, including to wages, benefits, and work hours,” but “the settlement does not prevent Cineflix workers from forming a union and negotiating a collective agreement,” CWA Canada tweeted.

Last week I wrote a series of questions about Apollo’s effort to fund a takeover of TEGNA. Namely, will this takeover further erode the number of local journalists in the U.S.? Remember, Apollo helped finance the Gannett-Gatehouse merger and since then we’ve lost thousands more journalists.

Members of the Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh marked an “Unhappy Anniversary” on March 31, noting “5 Years of Awards Without Reward!”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette journalists’ honors include a Pulitzer Prize in 2019, a 2020 finalist and many national, state, and local awards. Meanwhile, PP-G’s owners – the notorious Block brothers – have denied workers collective raises, fought to cut their health care benefits, and unilaterally imposed work rules. The company unilaterally imposed new conditions on employees in July 2020, a move union members are challenging.

It’s past time for management to reach a fair contract settlement with their nearly 100 journalists.

Workers at 70 Faces Media, a Jewish media organization, have ratified a contract that for the first time includes language that commits union members and management to “discuss ideas for diversifying the … applicant pool” and providing a “supportive environment” for all. Good move!

STRIPPED FOR PARTS: American Journalism at the Crossroads is the story of a secretive hedge fund that is plundering America’s newspapers, and the journalists who are fighting back – that’s us! Stripped for Parts by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Rick Goldsmith’s explores the role of Alden Global Capital in destroying local news, the harm it inflicts on hundreds of communities nationwide; and “the David-and Goliath battle” waged by journalists—to prevent the destruction of their newspapers, to educate the public about what is at stake, and to create new vehicles to preserve, and improve, the vitality of local journalism. Support his efforts here.

The Guild is going to the Labor Notes 2022 conference! The conference is June 17-19 in Rosemont, IL, outside Chicago. Read more about it here.

We’ll sponsor up to 15 leaders and members to go including three night’s hotel stay, registration of $130, and flight or travel up to $600. We’ll review applications and select at random from the top 15 applicants.

If you’d like to go, please complete this form out by the end of MONDAY, APRIL 18.

We’ve some great training sessions set to begin in April. Check them out! The Guild’s six-part Stewards Training series begins on Tuesday. See all events on our calendar.

The first one starts tomorrow: Steward Training Module 1 – Steward Basics, 6-8 pm ET, Tues, April 5. Review the roles stewards play in our union and the best practices for having effective organizing conversations. Register here.

Finally, Guild members have been in the news a lot since last week — here’s a roundup of articles covering our fights.

In solidarity,

Jon Schleuss
President, NewsGuild-CWA