Hundreds of new Vice Media employees outside of its editorial division recently executed their first union contracts.
Roughly 200 additional members of the company working for Viceland and Vice Digital, its TV and video operation, respectively, have bargained and ratified new union contracts under the Writers Guild of America East. While the 2016 contract for Vice editorial, its written news operation, was renewed, the additions to the contracts mean the Vice union now includes for the first time members of its nightly news programming, weekly documentaries and other non-fiction shows, as well as news video staff and an expansion of digital news workers.
“We are stronger together, and that strength is more needed now than ever before,” the Vice bargaining committee wrote in a joint statement. “There is power in a union, and we urge everyone — everywhere — to organize. Now is the time.”
Indeed, as work in digital media is further marked by shifts in strategy and an investor squeeze for profitability, including at Vice, unexpected cuts to staff are becoming more common. A number of outlets over just the past year, from The New Yorker to most recently New York Magazine, have initiated union efforts. All cited as cause some mix of job insecurity and feeling generally left out of decision-making that directly affects their work and future employment.
“As our efforts and those of our fellow workers across the labor movement have proven time and time again, organizing a union and building collective power works,” the bargaining committee added.
Lowell Peterson, WGAE’s executive director, said the new and renewed contracts represent “concrete gains negotiated for people who craft content on the entire range of platforms, and we look forward to a productive relationship with Vice management for years to come.”
In all of the contracts with Vice, there are things like guaranteed salary increases ranging from 3.25 percent to 3.75 percent, along with new minimums aimed at raising the pay of lower-paid employees. But new additions include a committee to “address and discuss engagement” of freelancers and any issues with non-payment, across Vice and a removal of the “at will” qualification of employees, which allows an employer to fire anyone at any time for any reason.
Other apparently new aspects of some contracts for Vice editorial include the establishment of anti-harassment and anti-bias training, stipulations around gender pronoun use in the workplace and “gold standard benefits” for transgender and gender non-conforming employees. There are also now protections in place regarding online harassment and a new commitment to interviewing “diverse candidates” for any open job.
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