With Gawker Successfully Unionized, Is Salon Next?

Everett Historical/Shutterstock

The editorial staff for Salon Media, a progressive news and analysis outlet, unanimously announced in a letter today that they intend to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East.

“Every single one of the editorial employees at Salon supports unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East, and today we’re asking the management of Salon to recognize our union,” the letter states.

“We are doing this because we believe in our publication and want it to be successful. We’re especially proud to work for a media organization that has championed progressive values for nearly 20 years. We believe this organizing campaign is a positive and public way for us to put those values into practice, right here at home.”

The announcement comes just weeks after 100 editorial staffers at Gawker Media successfully voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE), notably with the support of management. It appears that Salon staffers—26 in total—are looking for that same sort of support from their management. The staff conducted a card check with unanimous support, and as of now are requesting that management voluntarily recognize WGAE as its collective bargaining representative, and is not currently using a formal NLRB process.

"Salon has, from its very inception, proudly embraced progressive values and a commitment to our workers and to labor," Salon's editor-in-chief David Daley said in an email. "We look forward to discussing this initiative with the editorial staff and learning more about their objectives and goals. After we are able to have an open conversation, we'll be able to plot a course forward together."

“We’ve been talking to [the Salon editorial staff] for a while. Our organizers are very present in the field and have had various conversations with people at various digital media organizations for months,” says WGAE Executive Director Lowell Peterson. “There’s a great deal of interest. They’ve done a great deal of self-organizing, which is great. That’s the way it should work.”

Peterson says that negotiations would likely address concerns regarding pay and benefits, in addition to other issues.

As I previously wrote for the Prospect, the Gawker, and now Salon, organizing efforts may well signal a growing interest among young digital media workers to unionize. Gawker was one of the first digital media outlets to establish a union. In 2009, Truthout was the first online outlet to successfully unionize, doing so through a virtual card check process. In 2011, the Daily Beast became unionized because of its merger with Newsweek, which was already a union shop.

Many digital media outlets are staffed with younger employees who tend to be more liberal and more receptive to unions. Young people between the ages of 18 and 29 have a 55 percent favorable view of unions, compared to 48 percent of the general population. This is in tandem with the rapid growth, and profitability, of the industry.

According to an extensive report on the state of digital media released by the Pew Research Center in 2014, staffing at digital native organizations has grown rapidly as the outlets gain a foothold in the Internet marketplace. Vice Media, which started 20 years ago as a small alternative publication in Canada, has exploded into a new media mogul—as of 2014 they had a full-time staff of 1,100. Huffington Post, which is celebrating 10 years as a digital native outlet, has nearly 600 full-time editorial staff. Buzzfeed has about 300 editorial staffers in the United States.

One of Gawker’s lead organizers, Hamilton Nolan told me in May: “A lot of people hope that if we can show that this can be done in our industry, that it might make it easier for people at a lot of other companies to do the same thing, I hope that it puts a little pressure on the management of those companies to say, ‘What’s up with you guys?’”  

Gawker’s success “has given a lot of confidence to other outlets. It underscores that organizing in digital media is achievable not just theoretical,” Peterson says.

Correction: A previous version of this article, and the original headline, said that Gawker was the first digital media outlet to establish a union. In fact, Gawker was one of the first online news outlets to unionize. In 2009, Truthout was the first online outlet to successfully unionize, doing so through a virtual card check process. In 2011, the Daily Beast became unionized because of its merger with Newsweek, which was already a union shop.

 

You may also like