The digital publisher, which unionized at the beginning of 2016, has inked a deal that includes gains in pay,”protections of journalistic integrity” (i.e. staffers won’t be made to write sponsored content), and there will be a platform for employees to voice their grievances.
Perhaps those who did not vote for the deal were reading the tea leaves. Last year, following Gawker Media’s unionization, the company went bankrupt and would eventually be sold to Univision, owner of digital site Fusion, which also unionized. Once Gawker, which was renamed Gizmodo Group was bought, Univision took an axe to Fusion, cutting about 70 people and folding it into its new acquisition. At an unrelated company, the Guardian U.S., which also unionized last year, endured a 30 percent cut after it organized.
Returning to HuffPo, its deal with the WGAE entails pay raises and pay minimums based on job title. It guarantees that no member will get less than a 3 percent annual increase, with many receiving more.
In fact, many at the company were paid below market, and will thus receive increases of $10,000 — and in some cases as much as $20,000 — over the life of the agreement, the WGAE said.
The deal also includes guidelines “ensuring that editorial employees cannot be assigned to work on branded content or native advertising, and protecting editorial content from interference by advertisers, sponsors and business partners.”
Other guidelines include a just cause provision for discipline and discharge, a provision relating to comp time, provisions to enhance newsroom diversity, a formal program in which unit members will share revenues from “derivative work” based on articles and videos they create for the company, a clear system for freelancing and outside work and a guaranteed severance in the event of layoffs or termination of two month’s pay plus one week per year of service and paid medial benefits for the entire period.
“This landmark agreement demonstrates that collective bargaining works,” said Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGAE. “Our large and engaged negotiating committee worked tirelessly to communicate the real concerns of WGAE-represented employees, and the company’s bargaining team was respectful and responsive. We are building a strong movement of digital journalists in perilous times. The writers, editors and producers at The Huffington Post have achieved real gains by unionizing, and there are now 500 digital journalists covered by WGAE-negotiated contracts.”
The Huffington Post Bargaining Committee said, “When we decided to unionize at HuffPost, we had a lot of concerns we wanted to tackle: editorial autonomy, newsroom diversity, fair and transparent pay, and job security. We’re happy to say we’ve achieved a contract that addresses all that and more. This agreement is going to improve the lives of many of our peers, and make HuffPost an even better place to do great journalism. It shows what a newsroom can accomplish when it decides to come together and bargain collectively. We’re grateful to the company for working with us toward such a strong and fair first contract.”
In addition to The Huffington Post, the WGAE represents editorial staffs at Vice, ThinkProgress, Salon Media, which recently sold a 29 percent stake to hedgefund Spear Point Capital and Univision properties, Gizmodo Media Group, Fusion and The Root.