Thrillist Staff Ratify Contract With Writers Guild East

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The vote further solidifies the union’s reach into digital news shops.

Editorial staff at Thrillist have unanimously ratified a collective bargaining agreement between management and the Writers Guild of America East, the union announced Wednesday. The contract, which came after a year of bargaining and a one-day walkout, includes a $50,000 minimum starting salary and wage increases of 8.5 percent the first year and 2.5 percent the second and third year of the contract.

In August, according to the union, Thrillist’s editorial staff staged a one-day walkout that culminated with the first-ever vote to authorize a strike at a digital news site. Earlier in the campaign, over 300 television and film writers signed a solidarity statement that was hand-delivered to Thrillist’s management by WGAE president Beau Willimon. Sixty employees are covered by the new agreement, which continues the WGAE’s campaign to unionize digital media.

“The hard work of the WGAE negotiating committee, backed by the solidarity of the entire bargaining unit, have made this excellent agreement possible,” said union executive director Lowell Peterson. “Collective bargaining works; people who craft content can make concrete improvements in their pay and working conditions by unionizing, and can gain a real voice on the job.”

The contract also includes merit-based raises, improved sick time and vacation days, eight weeks of paid parental leave at the employee’s regular salary for primary care providers (four weeks for secondary care providers), just cause and a transparent process for discipline and termination, improved severance pay and deletion of pre-existing non-compete agreements.

Industry-specific terms include editorial standards policies, including a process to correct or delete posts, and a fence around sponsored content.

“This [contract] represents a victory not just for the editorial employees of Thrillist, but for our entire industry,” said Thrillist’s bargaining committee. “Through collective action we've made our workplace better and helped set a standard we hope other digital media shops can follow.”

“We are very happy that Thrillist has reached a tentative agreement with the WGAE-represented staff on a collective bargaining agreement,” said a spokesman for Thrillist’s corporate parent, Group Nine Media. “We are absolutely committed to the growth and success of all of our employees and look forward to great things to come.”

In addition to Thrillist, the WGAE represents over 1,000 creative professionals at digital news shops including Vox Media, VICE, Onion Inc., HuffPost, The Intercept, Slate, Salon, ThinkProgress, The Dodo, Fast Company, Talking Points Memo, MTV News and Gizmodo Media Group, as well as film and television writers east of the Mississippi.

10/10/2018 11:30 pm updated with comment from Thrillist.