When rumors began circulating that Bustle Digital Group’s staffers were preparing to form a union, media circles speculated that founder and chief executive officer Bryan Goldberg would put up a fight that would play out similar to the Hearst Magazines union battle, which took more than eight months for a resolution.
But just over three weeks after 200 staffers at the likes of Bustle, Nylon, Elite Daily, The Zoe Report and Input among others revealed their intention to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East, BDG has voluntary recognized it. This is in stark contrast to Hearst Magazines, which declined to voluntarily recognize its union, resulting in a lengthy and costly fight involving the federal National Labor Relations Board, which the staffers eventually won.
Of the decision, Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said, “Together, we can ensure that their voices are heard about the vital issues affecting their work and their workplace.”
For his part, Goldberg added, “We look forward to a productive and mutually respectful dialogue with the WGAE as we work through this process.”
Of course, both sides still need to sit down at the bargaining table to hash out contracts and only time will tell how that plays out.
As for the reasons for unionization, staffers want to focus on security, transparency and compensation, including benefits for part-time employees, as well as accountability for diversity, equity and inclusion.
BDG faced criticism for receiving a $7.5 million federal loan aimed to help small businesses keep staff on the payroll amid the pandemic just two weeks after it laid off two dozen employees and shuttered The Outline. At the time, the company said the loan would enable it “to partially undo salary reductions across the company and expand hours for part-time and freelance writers,” but did not mention anything about saving jobs.
The BDG organizing committee said: “Considering the momentous changes that are routine in our industry and the unique challenges of the past year, we feel now is the time to join our industry peers and organize in the hopes of forming a more equitable workplace. We love our work at BDG, and we are organizing to make it even better.”
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