Digital Double-Header: WGA East Scores at Vice Media, SAG-AFTRA at NY Public Radio

VICE Offices - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of Taji Ameen/VICE

Vice workers ratify four Writers Guild East contracts, while NYPR agrees to voluntary recognition of online Gothamist reporters by SAG-AFTRA.

New York digital news shops continue to be fertile ground for unionization, with the Writers Guild of America East announcing Monday that workers at Vice Media ratified four contracts and SAG-AFTRA announcing that it reached a voluntary recognition agreement with New York Public Radio that adds 25 workers — including reporters at the Gothamist news site — to the union’s existing collective bargaining unit at the station.

The WGAE collective bargaining agreements were “overwhelmingly ratified,” said the union, by the represented staffs at Vice Editorial, Vice News, Viceland and Vice Digital. The Vice Editorial agreement renews a contract first ratified in 2016, while the rest are first-time agreements.

Leaders of both unions were pleased by the respective accomplishments.

“Collective bargaining ensures that WGAE-represented employees have the opportunity to discuss what’s most important in their work lives, what needs to be changed and what needs to be strengthened,“ said WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson. “We are very pleased by the concrete gains negotiated for people who craft content on the entire range of platforms, and we look forward to a productive relationship with Vice management for years to come.”

Said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, “We’re excited to extend the New York Public Radio family and welcome the new members to our union. In this era of technological change, it is imperative that everyone has a voice at the table.”

“We are proud to work productively, collaboratively and quickly with [SAG-AFTRA] to include these new members in the collective bargaining unit,” said New York Public Radio president and CEO Laura Walker. “The contributions of these staffers are vital to the success of New York Public Radio, and today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to a strong and vibrant workforce.”

The WGAE said its contracts establish new and expanded companywide policies and practices, including codifying anti-harassment and anti-bias policies and trainings, stipulating gender pronoun use in the workplace, providing “gold standard benefits” for transgender and people that identify as gender non-conforming, enacting explicit protections against online harassment and a commitment to interviewing diverse candidates for open positions, as well as non-discrimination language pertaining to race, gender identify, socio-economic status, criminal convictions and more.

The union noted that additional highlights from the four contracts include: guaranteed salary increases in each year of the contract; new minimums and grades making significant gains to raise up lower paid employees and raise standards at all levels; a committee to address and discuss engagement of freelance contributors; editorial independence; just cause and union security; and allowance for employees to bring a union representative to report potential harassment complaints.

The Vice Bargaining Committee added, “As our efforts and those of our fellow workers across the labor movement have proven time and time again, organizing a union and building collective power works. We are stronger together, and that strength is more needed now than ever before. There is power in a union, and we urge everyone —everywhere — to organize. Now is the time.”

The WGAE represents over 1,000 creative professionals at digital news shops including Vox Media, Vice, Salon, Thrillist, 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, television and television news writers east of the Mississippi.

SAG-AFTRA, in addition to representing performers and singers, represents television and radio broadcasters as well, nationwide.