Staffers of Gimlet Media look to be in for a fight over their new unionization effort.
Leadership at the podcasting company are said to have lawyered up and “effectively declined” an invitation to voluntarily recognize the union, which a vast majority of Gimlet’s roughly 80 staffers officially formed early this month. The reveal of the union came about a month after Spotify said it would be acquiring Gimlet in a deal worth $230 million.
Leaders of Gimlet’s union effort, part of Writers Guild of America, East, wrote on Twitter that instead of voluntary recognition, which has been relatively common among a number of digital media companies that have launched union efforts in recent months, “Gimlet’s lawyer came back with a surprisingly aggressive counter proposal.”
That proposal is said to include a demand that 30 people be removed from the current bargaining unit, along with a demand for a re-vote on unionization that would disallow the 30 members with whom Gimlet is taking issue.
“We think this is unfair,” the Gimlet union wrote on Twitter. “If Gimlet Media’s leadership isn’t going to recognize us voluntarily and insist on a re-vote, everyone should get to vote.”
A Gimlet spokesman declined to comment.
When Gimlet staff went public with their union effort, it marked the first such move by a podcasting company. Staffers said they wanted to bargain with management around issues like job, promotion and pay transparency, diversity initiatives, employee intellectual property and disciplinary actions, as well as a desire for input on corporate decisions.
All of the bargaining topics are pretty typical for media organization efforts, which have picked up lately as sudden corporate changes and layoffs become the industry norm. Staffs at New York Magazine, Refinery29, Slate, BuzzFeed, The New Yorker and Fast Company have all unionized recently, while Vice’s bargaining unit grew substantially to include video and production for the first time. All of these outlets, save for New York Magazine (which just had a round of layoffs) and BuzzFeed, received voluntary recognition, sometimes within a week. Slate was an exception however, with management only relenting after a year and a threat of strike by Slate staff.
So Gimlet’s pushback does not mean that it will never recognize the union, but it could mean that staff is in for a longer haul than they would like.
A spokesman for WGAE could not be reached to address how the Gimlet union is planning to move forward, or the possibility of a strike should Gimlet leadership continue to reject the current makeup of the bargaining group and demand a re-vote. It’s also unclear if a strike, or the union effort in general, would have any effect on the Spotify acquisition or if Spotify is involved in the union dealings at all. The acquisition was set to close in the first quarter, which typically ends with March. A representative of Spotify could not be reached for comment.
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