BuzzFeed staffers criticized the company on Wednesday after representatives for their still unrecognized union accused management of bailing on a negotiating meeting just minutes before it was set to begin.
“We came to the table today ready to meet with BuzzFeed execs about finally recognizing our union. Five minutes after the meeting was scheduled to start, they told us they weren’t going to show up,” the union said in a tweet. “This meeting was a crucial opportunity to make progress in agreeing on a bargaining unit, after more than 7 weeks of frustratingly slow communication with BuzzFeed. Instead, they abandoned today’s negotiations. BuzzFeed management is engaging in clear union-busting.”
While union rumblings have simmered at BuzzFeed for years, it took on new urgency in 2019 after the company laid off more than 200 people (about 15 percent of total staff) in January. The cuts — which the company decided to stagger over several days — gutted the national news and national security desks, while the LGBT beat was trimmed to a single staffer.
Immediately after the union statement dropped, BuzzFeed staffers across the company promptly tweeted out their displeasure at the news — calling out their own employer in blunt terms.
“Our organizing committee has been working hard and in good faith to reach a point where the company voluntarily recognizes our union. This is deeply disappointing and disrespectful,” politics reporter Nidhi Prakash said.
“Don’t cultivate a large, tightly knit team of some of the best and brightest internet content creators in the history of the medium and then just… piss them all off at the same time,” added senior editor Kristin Chirico. “This seems like… self-preservation 101?”
“This is so disheartening and a slap in the face” declared news reporter Brianna Sacks.
In a statement to TheWrap, BuzzFeed said they hoped the union would continue to negotiate.
“BuzzFeed has made specific, reasonable offers (and concessions) with the goal of voluntarily recognizing a BuzzFeed News union. We hope the union will return to discussing specific titles and positions – the subject of weeks of negotiations – rather than focusing on an area where we continue to disagree,” a spokesperson said.
BuzzFeed also responded internally to staff in a memo obtained by TheWrap in which they accused the union of changing the goal posts.
“The Union sent us an email insisting that we drop our discussion of individual positions and move to negotiating a broad, abstract bargaining unit–changing the terms of discussion. This stance would have reversed weeks of progress and, we determined, did not set the table for a productive meeting,” Tanya Carroll, senior director of people, told staffers. “BuzzFeed has a firm interest in productively engaging with the Union and our employee representatives to reach an agreement on a defined bargaining unit. However, the unit must be established based on an understanding of which titles are to be included/excluded.
Reps for the union declined TheWrap’s request for comment but issued their own rebuttal in a separate email to their colleagues.
“This email from Tanya is inaccurate in several ways. The terms of our discussion have not changed. We have never said that negotiations cannot include discussion of specific positions,” the union said. “Unionizing is increasingly the status quo for our industry. But BuzzFeed is choosing a path of avoidance and delays. It does not have to be this way.”
Our organizing committee has been working hard and in good faith to reach a point where the company voluntarily recognizes our union. This is deeply disappointing and disrespectful. https://t.co/yuvsciqyyx
— Nidhi Prakash (@nidhiprakash) April 3, 2019
I expected BuzzFeed management to do the right thing. This is unacceptable and disrespectful. https://t.co/gkK6adMRgE
— Joe Bernstein (@Bernstein) April 3, 2019
don't cultivate a large, tightly knit team of some of the best and brightest internet content creators in the history of the medium and then just… piss them all off at the same time. this seems like… self-preservation 101?
— Kristin Chirico (@lolacoaster) April 3, 2019
This is so disheartening and a slap in the face and goes against the first thing we all learned in preschool: treat????????others????????the????????way????????you????????want????????to????????be????????treated????????
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) April 3, 2019
— Amber Jamieson (@ambiej) April 3, 2019
BuzzFeed Execs need to do better. Like now. https://t.co/3mC14kazbC
— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) April 4, 2019
BuzzFeed stood up their staff today when they had directly told us they were excited to engage in productive discussions about the union. These actions are contradictory and illogical. Here's our thread detailing what happened today: https://t.co/x25xDVbXYf
— Ema O'Connor (@o_ema) April 3, 2019
We’ve made essentially no progress on voluntary recognition of our union. This is the 51st day—7 weeks!—since we went public. BuzzFeed is “surface bargaining”—leaving just enough of a paper trail that they can say they're negotiating and playing ball, when they really are not. https://t.co/BtouL7EXKj
— Davey Alba (@daveyalba) April 3, 2019
I don't understand how BuzzFeed's management think this is going to end. They staffed a News division full of passionate, whip-smart, tenacious journalists, so it should come as no surprise that those same people are unimpressed and undeterred by obfuscation and delay. https://t.co/0LvL2Ni2Ak
— Adam B. Vary (@adambvary) April 3, 2019