New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called out BuzzFeed management in a tweet on Thursday, saying the company’s strong-arm negotiations in union talks with employees was an “insult” to all New Yorkers.
“Memo to @BuzzFeedNews: New York City is a union town. You didn’t just snub @bfnewsunion yesterday, you insulted all working New Yorkers. To the union: This city stands with you. To the management: Come. To. The. Table,” de Blasio said.
The tweet was a rare public rebuke for the mayor against a private company in New York City and signaled the growing escalation of the dispute between BuzzFeed management and employees fighting for the recognition of their union.
“This process is not going to benefit from the involvement of a deeply unpopular mayor who has expressed an open disdain for journalists during his time in office,” a rep for BuzzFeed told TheWrap on Thursday in response to de Blasio. Reps for the union declined to comment.
On Wednesday a meeting between union reps and management collapsed after management pulled out at the last minute.
“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 Twitter thread. “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.”
The thread immediately precipitated a storm of criticism against the company, with many of the loudest and most critical voices coming from BuzzFeed employees — on Twitter.
“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 in response to their union, BuzzFeed management said they hoped something could still be worked out.
“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.
While union talk has permeated for years at the company, things went into high gear after BuzzFeed laid off more than 200 employees — or roughly 15% of the company in January. The cuts gutted the National News and National Security desks and left the LGBT beat with just a single dedicated employee.
Late Thursday afternoon, DeBlasio responded to BuzzFeed in a second tweet:
Wow. @BuzzFeedNews execs respond a lot faster to a public call-out than they do to demands for fairness from their own workers.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 4, 2019