Vox Media Ratifies Landmark First Contract with Writers Guild of America, East
NEW YORK, NY (June 14, 2019) — Vox Media, home to Curbed, Eater, Polygon, Recode, SB Nation, The Verge and Vox.com, today ratified its first collective bargaining agreement with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE).
Vox Media’s 350-member unit began bargaining their first contract in April 2018. In an unprecedented act of transparency, the bargaining committee livestreamed a part of their first bargaining session. The campaign to win a contract included a one-day walkout on June 6, 2019 and a petition signed by over 450 Guild members working in scripted film and television that was hand delivered to management at the bargaining table. The contract was settled after a 29-hour marathon bargaining session.
Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said, “This landmark contract achieves all the goals laid out when Vox Media employees organized with the WGAE, from their intent to enhance workplace culture and increase transparency to improving diversity and ensuring the editorial staff has a voice in decisions affecting work life. Great things happen when working people unite and act collectively. Congrats to the union bargaining committee and the entire unit for working so hard for so long.”
The three-year agreement includes:
- A $56,000 minimum for exempt employees; a $53,000 minimum for OT-eligible employees (plus a six-tier minimum wage scale by job category);
- A 3.5% retroactive raise to July 1, 2018, for everyone in the bargaining unit, except for employees hired since July 1, 2018, and employees who earned a raise in excess of $10,001 since July 1, 2018. Employees who earned a raise of less than $10,001 since July 1, 2018, will receive a 2.5% retroactive raise to last July;
- Employees who earn less than $95,000 will receive a 3.5% raise in the first year of the contract and 3.25% raises in the second year of the contract. Employees earning above $95,000 will receive increases of 3% the first year of the contact and 2.75% the second year of the contract. In the third year of the contract, employees who earn less than $98,100 will receive a 3.25% raise and employees who earn more than $98.100 will receive a 2.75% raise;
- The company will provide health benefits for part-time employees who work 20 or more hours per week;
- 16 weeks of paid parental leave;
- 4 weeks of paid leave to care for an ill immediate family member;
- 10 days of bereavement leave, with additional access to unlimited PTO;
- The company commits that 40% of the people in the applicant pool to make it beyond the phone interview stage in the hiring process will be from underrepresented backgrounds. This number will be 50% for the highest-paid, most senior positions;
- Language ensuring the company will honor preferred gender pronouns and provide access to gender-neutral bathrooms;
- Each vertical will maintain and regularly distribute a policy to promote diverse sourcing and freelancing bylines;
- Recuperation Time when employees work unusually long hours, on six or more days in a row, on a company holiday, or when they travel for work on a regular day off. This time will be separate and apart from PTO;
- Total elimination of forced arbitration;
- Total elimination of non-competes for current unit employees; going forward, the company will have the opportunity to negotiate non-competes for new hires earning more than $150,000, and the union will have to consent to any such agreement;
- When the Company sells employees’ editorial content to a third party, the employee(s) who were significantly involved in the creation of the content will share in a revenue pool equal to 4% of the purchase price, up to a total pool of $75,000;
- When Vox Media creates derivative content based on employees’ work and produces it for a third-party distributor (e.g., Netflix, Hulu), the employee(s) who were significantly involved in the creation of the original content will share in a revenue pool equal to 2% of the Company’s Producer Fee, up to a total pool of $100,000;
- Enhanced editorial standards that state that editorial content creators will never be forced to work on anything over which advertisers have approval;
- All temporary employees will be in the bargaining unit, and can be temporary for no longer than one year and two weeks;
- Protections against the company laying off unit members and replacing them with contractors
- Terminations & severance language that includes Just cause and a minimum of 11 weeks’ severance for layoffs (11 weeks’ severance for 0-3 years of service time, plus 1 additional week per year of service capped at 18 weeks);
- Union security.
A full description of contract highlights can be found here.
The Vox Media Bargaining Committee, said, “We are thrilled to announce that the Vox Media Union has ratified our first collective bargaining agreement with the Writers Guild of America, East. More than 90 percent of our 350-unit members voted, and every one of us voted YES on this contract, which is a testament to the strong language that this union was able to secure thanks to our solidarity. After 14 months of negotiations with Vox Media management, we were able to guarantee significant year-over-year raises for our members, including raises that will be retroactive to last July. Additionally, our contract establishes a salary minimum of $56,000 for all full-time exempt employees, a six-tier wage scale by job type to make pay and promotions more transparent, health insurance for part-time workers, 16 weeks of paid parental leave, total elimination of forced arbitration, and a severance package that provides a minimum of 11 weeks’ severance, paid COBRA, and recall rights if an identical job opens up within six months of a layoff.”
The statement continued, “We are particularly proud of the diversity language in our contract. The company commits that 40% of the applicant pool who make it beyond the phone interview stage for open bargaining unit positions will be from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in journalism. That figure will be 50% for the most senior roles in the union. The company will also set aside a $50,000 annual budget for a union subcommittee devoted to improving diversity and equity at the company.”
The bargaining committee concluded, “We achieved this contract over the past year and a half at the bargaining table, leading up to the largest walkout in digital media history. Just as we stood in solidarity to demand better working conditions and fair wages, we are heartened that future digital media unions will continue to build on our gains. This historic contract would not have been possible without immense support from our fellow Writers Guild members in digital media and beyond. We stand in solidarity with digital media workers everywhere who are organizing their shops and bargaining contracts to secure a better future for everyone in journalism. Together we bargain, divided we beg.”
In addition, Sarah Lloyd, a part-time employee at Vox Media, added, “I took my part-time job as editor at Curbed Seattle because it was a dream job, but I knew it would be hard making up for the lost income and navigating the healthcare system on my own. Getting health insurance makes me feel valued as an employee. This contract reduces the headache that comes with the part-time hustle and gives me extra room to be better at my job.”
Four years ago this month, Gawker Media began a wave of newsrooms unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East. In addition to Vox Media, the Guild now represents staffs at Fast Company, Talking Points Memo, ThinkProgress, HuffPost, The Intercept, VICE, Salon, Slate, CBSN, Gimlet Media, Refinery29, Thrillist, The Dodo, Onion Inc., Future plc, MTV News and Gizmodo Media Group.
ABOUT WRITERS GUILD OF AMERICA, EAST
The Writers Guild of America, East, AFL-CIO (WGAE) is a labor union representing writers in film, television, news and new media. 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.