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Organizing News Sites and Ferry Captains

Employers at Vox, Buzzfeed and NYC Ferry are all dragging their feet to prevent CBA's from being signed

Brian Young's picture
Jun 14, 2019

Many employers do everything in their power to stop their employees from organizing. Some hold captive audience meetings, while others challenge every move in court. Still, others stay neutral in a union vote only to drag their feet in negotiating the first contract. Below, we have updates on three organizing cases and what management is doing to prevent their workers from having a fair voice in their workplace.

At Buzzfeed, the staff voted to join the CWA-Newsguild in February of 2019. Since the election, the self-proclaimed progressive management at the company has refused to start bargaining with the employees. This refusal to work with the union caught Senator Bernie Sanders attention. He tweeted at the company about his concern that they were blowing off their workers.

Staffers at Buzzfeed aren’t the only digital media workers who are fighting for union rights. At Vox, employees announced in November of 2017 and they voluntarily recognized the Writers Guild of America (WGA) East as their bargaining unit in January 2018. Now almost a year and a half later, a contract is still not signed and the employees are fed up. In an effort to jumpstart the negotiations, Vox workers decided to hold a wildcat strike. After holding a series of one-hour walkouts, the union decided to call a one day strike on June 6th. The day was symbolic as it was the last scheduled day of bargaining. According to the union, the two sides were still far apart on competitive wage scales, strong guaranteed raises, better severance, and subcontracting work. The site, which posts numerous stories a day went almost completely silent for 24 hours with just a few previously written stories being published.

Vox seemed to get the message following the strike as management sat down for a marathon bargaining session and after 29 straight hours of negotiations worked out a deal. The deal was reached just one day after the strike.

“An organized workforce provides support for each employee, and any one of us in need should feel empowered by the rest of us,” said the WGA East about the contract. “Unions have made traditional newsrooms across America stronger and better for decades, and we’re excited to join the movement in digital media to bring these protections to this industry.”

Over the last few years, ferries in New York City have exploded in popularity. Especially in the Summer, the waterways around Manhattan are full of ships bringing commuters from New Jersey, Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, and even Long Island. The biggest provider of this service is a company called Hornblower. In November of 2018 ferry captains at Hornblower filed for a union election, letting the company know that they wanted to join the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA). Of course, the company appealed claiming that these captains couldn’t organize because they were management. In January, the NLRB sided with the captains and allowed the union vote to go forward. The company appealed, but in the meantime, the employees voted to join MEBA. Although appeals are still ongoing, MEBA and the company are said to be meeting in the hopes of reaching an agreement out of court.

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