Sports Illustrated Union: We have a deal!

Two years after forming the Sports Illustrated Union, negotiators have agreed on a tentative agreement with management and the publisher, the Arena Group. They are the second unit of the New York NewsGuild to announce details of a first contract in two days, following the workers of New York magazine.

Once it’s ratified by union members, the Sports Illustrated agreement “will protect our workplace and our journalism,” they said on Wednesday.

Workers credited their activism and solidarity for their gains. The agreement “wouldn’t have been possible without the support we’ve had from our subscribers, readers and allies in the labor movement and beyond,” they said.

During negotiations, union members shared testimonials — which they posted on Twitter — about the effect of inadequate staffing, long hours and low pay, including the tale of a reporter who was forced to return to work on the second day of paternity leave.

And when management refused to recognize workers’ time with the company prior to its purchase in 2019, they released a letter signed by more than 90% of the members in the unit demanding that the company acknowledge their loyalty and experience and negotiate fair layoff and severance provisions.

The agreement includes:

  • A wage structure with fair minimum salaries for all positions and a salary floor of $64,000. Guaranteed 3% yearly raises. The average employee will see a raise of 13% by this April, with some of our most underpaid members getting bumps of 30, 40, even 66%.
  • Full credit for time served at SI under previous operators, including time spent as subcontractors.
  • “Just cause” protections.
  • Layoff procedures that include a volunteer process and recall rights if an employee’s job reopens. A severance policy that guarantees two weeks of pay per year of service.
  • A ban on production quotas, and a ban on discipline based on clicks or likes, which will ensure that staffers can continue to focus on producing the best journalism for readers.
  • A requirement that at least 50% of applicants for union-covered jobs who make it to interviews with a hiring manager will come from traditionally underrepresented groups each year. The company’s diversity committee will have a budget of $50,000.
  • Important protections for work-life balance, including a 40-hour workweek and a procedure for ensuring workers can take the vacations they need under the company’s unlimited PTO policy.
  • Free-agent eligibility after five seasons and preservation of pitchers hitting in the National League. Sorry, wrong sports labor deal… [The creative journalists of SI Union came up with that one.]

“We’re excited to put this contract into force and raise standards industry-wide,” they said.

Photo at top: SI Union negotiators were all smiles when they reached a tentative agreement.