BuzzFeed News Employees to Form Union Following Layoffs: ‘It’s Not All Fun and Memes’

“We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union,” BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith says

Last Updated: February 13, 2019 @ 7:15 AM

A month after BuzzFeed laid off 15 percent of its workforce its editorial staff responded Tuesday with the announcement that they planned to form a union.

“It’s not all fun and memes,” the staff’s organizing committee said in a statement. “Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more.”

“So we’re forming a union of US news employees with the NewsGuild of New York, which represents other vanguard reporting outlets, including the New York Times, Reuters, the Daily Beast, and Los Angeles Times,” the statement continued. “Our goals: to protect each other, reach a collective bargaining agreement, and make this company stronger. We will fight like hell for a fair deal while striving for a positive relationship with management — get you a union who can do both.”

Ben Smith, BuzzFeed News’ Editor-in-Chief, told TheWrap in a statement Tuesday evening: “We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”

Union organizers will need to present the company with cards indicating that they have a majority of support and identify a list of names that will make up the bargaining group the company will be negotiating with, Matt Mittentha, a BuzzFeed spokesperson told TheWrap.

In January, BuzzFeed announced it would lay off about 220 of its employees despite experiencing a 15 percent increase in revenues during 2018. The company initially refused to include earned, unused time off in severance packages except where the law required it, but reversed course after the issue was publicized in an open letter written by more than 350 current and former BuzzFeed staffers.

The union efforts involve only employees at BuzzFeed News for now.

“HELLO HELLO HELLO!!!! my coworkers and i have been ~working on a thing~ for, um, a long ass time, and I’m absof—inglutely thrilled to tell you all about it today,” tweeted BuzzFeed reporter Julia Reinstein.

BuzzFeed political reporter, Lissandra Villa, posted a video of herself signing her new union card.

“I’m proud of the organizing committee that worked tirelessly on this, and look forward to hearing back from management on our ask for voluntary recognition,” she wrote. 

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