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Unionizing Ain't So Easy

Daniel Hinton's picture
Jun 02, 2015

UPDATE: Gawker announced on Thursday that they have voted to join the Writers Guild of America East by a vote of 80 in favor and 27 against.

Barely a day after Gawker's longest tenured writer, Hamilton Nolan, announced a historic unionization effort at the digital media company, The Washington Post declared, "Gawker is making unionizing look easy." Press and publishing workers have been represented by unions, such as NewsGuild-CWA, for decades. But newer, digital-based media companies have almost completely avoided organizing efforts. That's why Nolan's public announcement sent shockwaves through the industry last month: one of the Internet's most popular and liberal blog sites could lead the charge in a sort of union revival.

With the unionization vote set for Wednesday, June 3, a recent headline from the International Business Times read, "Gawker's attempts to organize are not going super well."

To be clear, the majority of Gawker editorial staff are expected to vote "yes" to unionizing their workplace. And the perception that Nolan and his coworkers went from "making unionizing look easy" to "not going super well" is mostly a media creation, perhaps by anti-union competitors.

In an open forum posted on Gawker's frontpage by media staff, potential voters explained their decisions and motivations. Nolan wrote, "A union is the only way we get to exercise our will together." Erin Gloria Ryan, the managing editor over at Gawker-owned feminist blog Jezebel, said, "Gawker editorial unionizing would have positive repercussions across an industry where writers are routinely underpaid, overworked, and exploited," adding "To me, this is a no-brainer."  

Of course, not everybody's going to be all gung-ho for a union. Drew Magary is a notable example, as the most popular columnist on Deadspin (Gawker's sports site). Some Gawker employees won't want a union until they need it.

The Writers Guild of America (WGA) will represent all full-time editorial staff members — including those in favor, on the fence, and against. In that case, what the union will do best is exactly what its supposed to: unite workers together in collective bargaining.

Come time for the big vote, those in favor of unionizing should stand strong and not waver in their support. Because the choice between union and no union should be clear:

Vote yes, Gawker. Vote union.

UPDATE (6/4/2015):  Gawker editorial staff has voted in favor of unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE). Ballots were cast and tallied electronically, and the results were: Yes - 80 votes (75 percent) and No - 27 votes (25 percent).

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