The NewsGuild wants to be “the voice for digital journalists.”
In a column last month, NewsGuild-CWA President Bernie Lunzer wrote about why the NewsGuild is the right place for digital journalists:
Many journalists went into digital media with high hopes but low expectations because digital profit was illusory. But as many startups have stabilized and even turned a profit, workers have decided that they want some stability, too. It is a wonderful development. Digital media workers are starting to see unions as the tool that can get them there. A spate of successful organizing drives since June—including new Guild units at the Guardian US and Al Jazeera America—are spurring more campaigns.
The Frontier Reporter reached out to Marian Needham, executive vice president of the NewsGuild-CWA, by email and asked her to elaborate on these efforts.
Is this issue one of the Guild’s priorities today? And is the Guild devoting a lot of resources to it?
Absolutely. In fact, CWA has recently earmarked almost half-a-million dollars to help the Guild organize digital media workers. That money has allowed us to hire two organizers who will help coordinate our organizing efforts. While those organizers will be based in DC and New York, the grant also provides lost time funding for organizing by locals across the US, and CWA District One has assigned a skilled and experienced staff organizer to help guide these projects. We are already beginning to see results with the recent wins at the Guardian US and Al Jazeera Digital. The organizing is supported by a new web site, digitalmediaguild.org. Videos and additional print materials are in development.
That said, digital media is not our only organizing focus. CWA has also authorized a grant to help the Guild continue its organizing among interpreters, and we have a request pending for assistance organizing at Gatehouse properties, where we have lots of interest among traditional newspaper workers.
Who has the NewsGuild organized so far and why is the Guild best suited to organize digital journalists?
The NewsGuild has represented digital journalists for as long as there have been digital journalists. At most Guild papers, as employers first began developing web sites and electronic editions, it was most often Guild members who provided the content and sold the ads. At some publications, management attempted to keep the digital journalists separate from the print, and that sometimes resulted in having different contracts for the print and .com editions. But in many workplaces, as the digital editions have evolved, the divisions have been lifted. For instance, digital journalists at Philly.com and NYT.com both experienced big improvements in their wages and benefits after the digital contract was merged into the contract for the traditional group. But our experience representing digital journalists is not limited to the digital platform of traditional employers. We also represent workers at digital publications such as Truthout, the Daily Beast and In These Times, in addition to the newly-organized workers at the Guardian US and Al Jazeera America.
Finally, it seems as though the underlying force here is that major online journalism companies are no longer startups that people are willing to test for a time to see if they succeed. They have become established, and their workers now want the voice and benefits of a unionized workforce. Would you agree with that?
Unquestionably. The workers have helped to grow many start-ups into established, viable publications and those workers have come to expect a measure of stability and security as the publications have matured. Employees who are organizing realize that having a collective voice in their workplace is the best way to have their concerns addressed. The process of hearing and addressing workers’ concerns will help continue the evolution of start-ups into stable publications that provide the kind of employment that sustains lives and careers.
Guardian US reporter, Amanda Holpuch, talks about forming a union in their newsroom. She and her coworkers are part of the latest string of newsrooms to organize with The NewsGuild-CWA. Learn more at: http://digitalmediaguild.org