Gawker Approves First Union Contract At A Digital Media Company

WGAE_logo_colorNEW YORK, NY (March 1, 2016) – In a historical first for a digital media company, Gawker’s editorial staff today approved a contract negotiated by its collective bargaining representatives at the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).

Gawker’s 99-member bargaining unit approved the contract by an overwhelming margin. The contract is an important milestone in a union drive that began at Gawker and continues to motivate digital media workers to join the labor movement around the world.

“The union was able to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement founded on the principles of consistency and transparency,” said Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East. “This agreement demonstrates that unionization gives digital media employees a real and effective voice in decisions that affect their careers.”

The Gawker Negotiating Committee said, “At the onset of this process, we said our priorities were to preserve the good things at Gawker against unilateral change (which we have done with health, dental, vision, and 401(k) benefits and with paid time off), to establish clear understandable rules for pay and benefits (which we have done with defined pay increases, minimums, and benefit protections); to improve transparency (which we have done with the right to meet with the company on editorial policy, corporate policy, and diversity); and to address concerns about editorial independence (which we won with new procedural protections). And we have broken new ground by gaining book rights to material people create for the company and by winning important protections for contractors. We joined together to ensure we have a voice, representation, and respect in the workplace and in our profession. We believe this contract is an important advance.”

The contract features significant economic gains, including:

  • 3% pay hikes in each year of the contract;
  • Minimum starting pay of $50,000; minimum of $70,000 for senior writers and editors; and a minimum of $90,000 for deputy editors and the editors-in-chiefs
  • Health, dental, and vision benefits locked in at current levels (premiums, deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance) for the life of the contract, even if the company’s costs increase by up to 10% per year (after that, the union will negotiate any changes);
  • Gawker’s automatic 3% contribution to each bargaining unit member’s 401(k) by the company locked in;
  • Significant severance pay: minimum of 2 months’ severance (plus 2 months’ health benefits) in layoffs; accelerated severance (and health benefits) for individual involuntary termination (after 6 months of employment).

Beyond important economic gains, this agreement includes innovations that reflect the digital workplace:

  • We won the right to publish books based on work we do for Gawker.
  • We won real gains for contractors: Starting next year, night and weekend contractors have to be paid as much as union-represented employees after they have been working for at least one year. And all full-time contractors (a/k/a “permalancers”) have to be offered full-time jobs after a year unless the company decides to stop using them altogether.
  • The agreement protects our editorial independence. Decisions about what to post can be made only by editorial, and decisions about taking anything down requires a majority vote of the CEO, the Executive Editor, and the General Counsel.
  • The company will meet regularly with a union committee to discuss diversity in the workplace.

In addition to Gawker, the WGAE represents writers and producers at digital media outlets The Huffington Post, Vice. Salon and ThinkProgress.

ABOUT WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in motion pictures, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news. The Guild negotiates and administers contracts that protect the creative and economic rights of its members; conducts programs, seminars and events on issues of interest to writers; and presents writers’ views to various bodies of government. For more information on the Writers Guild of America, East, visit wgaeast.org.

# # #