Al Jazeera English Content Creators Unionize With SAG-AFTRA

Al Jazeera Media Network Logo - H - 2018
Al Jazeera

The 66 employees include on-air and behind-the-camera workers.

Content creators at Al Jazeera English, based in the United States, voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to recognize SAG-AFTRA as their union, with 97 percent voting in favor, the union said. In an unusual but not unprecedented move for SAG-AFTRA, the newly represented employees include not just on-air hosts and reporters, but also behind-the-scenes editors and camerapersons.

The election was conducted by mail and votes were counted Wednesday by the National Labor Relations Board. After a 14-day waiting period, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, the union will reach out to management with the goal of beginning bargaining for a new contract sometime in December.

“I want to extend a warm welcome to the media professionals at Al Jazeera English on their decision to join SAG-AFTRA,” said union president Gabrielle Carteris. “It is imperative, particularly in these challenging times, that we ensure those responsible for informing our country and the world by reporting the news are protected. We at SAG-AFTRA are committed to standing with these media professionals in their fight for fair wages, workplace safety including while traveling, benefits and workplace accountability.”

The newly formed nationwide bargaining unit consists of 66 employees based in Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami, a union source told THR. Al Jazeera English, which is web-only (at least in the U.S.), did not respond to a request for comment.

“We … are excited to finally have our union confirmed by a National Labor Relations Board election, with SAG-AFTRA as our collective bargaining representative,” said the Al Jazeera English union organizing committee in a statement. “We are equally excited and optimistic about working with Al Jazeera Media Network management in negotiating fair wages and benefits, work-life balance, workplace equality, accountability and opportunity.”

SAG-AFTRA is best known for representing actors and also for representing singers and broadcasters, leading to the union’s informal slogan that it seeks to represent everyone “in front of the camera or behind the mic.” However, it also already represents a small number of people who are neither: certain content creators at NPR and public radio stations, according to a union source, as well as stunt coordinators, puppeteers and pilots (of planes and helicopters that appear onscreen). The AJE editors and camerapersons add to those ranks.

Al Jazeera English programs that will now be covered by SAG-AFTRA include the recent Emmy award-winning show Fault Lines, and The Stream, Witness, UpFront and People & Power.