BuzzFeed News Is Unionizing
And Honestly It’s About Damn Time ✊
BuzzFeed News is a critical player in the American news landscape thanks to our tireless staff. We break some of the biggest stories in news, politics, tech, science, and entertainment; publish incisive analysis of our culture; and diagnose what makes the internet tick.
But it's not all fun and memes. Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more.
So we're forming a union of US news employees with the NewsGuild of New York, which represents other vanguard reporting outlets, including the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast, and Los Angeles Times.
Our goals: to protect each other, reach a collective bargaining agreement, and make this company stronger. We will fight like hell for a fair deal while striving for a positive relationship with management — get you a union who can do both.
We believe in this company, and in our management, even though they’ve fucked up a few times. BuzzFeed recently laid off about 15% of its workforce, and it was, uh, not handled great. But the overwhelming majority of employees are still here. Those who didn't get laid off last month fought for fair severance agreements for our peers, because we know this company is at its best when we advocate for one another.
This organizing effort was underway well before the recent layoffs. We’ve been meeting for years, and after BuzzFeed laid off video staffers and our beloved podcast team last fall, our efforts ramped up — precisely because we think our terms of employment, such as severance, should be set in advance, not hastily arranged in a dramatic spectacle.
Our staff is uniting to demand a contract that guarantees paid time off is actually paid. We demand an agreement that requires due process for termination, a diverse newsroom, reasonable severance amid layoffs, a competitive 401(k), rights to our creative works, and affordable health insurance. We believe it’s urgent that our management address unfair pay disparities. We also believe that employees on contract — permalancers, who are paid through a third party but are functionally members of our team — deserve the same treatment.
Like the nation's great newspapers, BuzzFeed News bundles content, from the hilarious and fun to intensely reported investigations. This workforce is a juggernaut. We’ve helped transform media by syncing up with social platforms and speaking the language of the internet, while proving that rigorous accountability journalism can happen online. The haters who disregard BuzzFeed News as trivial — from politicians to media dinosaurs — do so at their own peril.
Our CEO, Jonah Peretti, recently suggested that merging with other digital media companies might strengthen our hand against social media platforms (which increasingly depend on free content from creators and influencers), and yup, we get why. Given the track record of salaried workers getting the shaft during big transitions, however, we want to make sure workers have some stability if that happens.
Unionizing is right for BuzzFeed News. Everything we are demanding is already in line with BuzzFeed’s values. We want to remain spry and competitive, but we reject the argument that we must choose between freelancing in a hellscape gig economy for vampirical platforms or submitting to the whims of a corporation that botches basic HR tasks.
The economics of labor don't vanish simply because we make content for the internet. We are reporters, producers, artists, designers, administrators, and editors. Professionals need to live and provide for their families. The real risk to BuzzFeed News would be failing to evolve, and failing to meet the needs of its grown-up workforce.
We must be nimble, but not at the cost of treating people like they’re disposable. We should help projects succeed and allow staffers to pivot to other parts of the company if projects don't work out, or guarantee they get a good deal on their way out.
Our success as a newsroom is thanks in part to management's commitment to cover areas that some outlets (not naming names here!) have considered niche — such as reporting on communities of color, religious minorities, women, and LGBT people. We have proved this coverage is the lifeblood of major national conversations. And yet, we worry that during times of intense change, the staff who are part of these communities are not retained or treated as well as they should be. We must enforce the company's pledge to diversity. Our audience is counting on us.
We are proud to join dozens of legacy publications and digital outlets that have unionized to build stronger newsrooms, and in doing so, we hope to leave a legacy for the workers who will organize after us.
We also support other parts of BuzzFeed unionizing, if they want to — ultimately it’s their decision, not ours. The BuzzFeed News Union makes this pledge to our peers: We will stand by you and help you any way we can. The news division relies on other parts of our company, and we're grateful for all of our colleagues.
Organizing can be adversarial, but it must always be respectful and understanding. We are facilitating a long overdue conversation with a goal of making everyone better off.
We demand that BuzzFeed News recognizes our union immediately so that we can swiftly reach a mutually satisfying contract that lets us focus on the important work of reporting on Cardi B memes and breaking the biggest stories in the country.