NBC News’ digital editorial staff have voted to form a union with New York’s NewsGuild, the group announced on Wednesday.
In a letter sent to NBC News management, the union cited the network’s handling of sexual harassment allegations made against Matt Lauer as one of the reasons why they needed to form a union:
Recent weeks have highlighted serious questions as to how NBC News has handled incidents of sexual misconduct in the workplace as well as the opaque processes and procedures for reporting on and exposing powerful predators. NBC News repeatedly refused calls for an independent review on both counts despite numerous such requests from staff. This lack of transparency and NBC News’ troubling trend of passing on stories which investigate the powerful ultimately harm our credibility as journalists.
We can address these issues, but only if management works with us. We seek to build a more equitable workplace in order to enhance the quality and breadth of our journalism and continue to work in the newsroom that we love. Forming a union will afford us a collective voice in decisions that will benefit the entire company, providing much-needed transparency and ensuring a safer workplace.
The blowback against the network had surged earlier this month following the release of Ronan Farrow’s book, “Catch and Kill,” which detailed how NBC News leadership ultimately killed his story on Harvey Weinstein and suggested that executives were aware of accusations made against Lauer long before he was fired. (NBC News has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, and Lauer denied an accusation that he raped a colleague.)
The union’s letter also criticized the network’s lack of support for female and non-white staffers.
“We have seen a steady exodus of women and people of color in recent years, which limits our perspective and lessens the quality of our journalism,” the letter read. “Our teams are understaffed, with responsibilities added onto existing roles without commensurate pay increases. Staff members often feel the best way to grow in their careers is to leave the company.”
The union, which was voted for by 75% of the digital newsroom employees, is asking that NBC News formally recognize the group and begin negotiations for a contract. Editorial staffers — totaling to about 150 — from nbcnews.com, msnbc.com, today.com, as well as the streaming network NBC News NOW, video unit Left Field, and Snapchat news show “Stay Tuned,” are all eligible to join the union. (NBC Sports’ digital editorial employees are not able to join, the union told The Wrap.)
Chris Berend, NBC News’ executive vice president of digital, responded in a memo to staffers on Wednesday, writing that the network would “address this request quickly” and “keep [them] updated every step of the way.”
“I want you to know we are deeply committed to a fair and healthy workplace for all our employees,” Berend wrote. “We welcome this dialogue from within our digital organization, and any constructive conversation aimed at building the future of NBC News Digital and ensuring that we’re the best we can be.”