Just weeks after writers and editors at Gawker Media unionized, the editorial employees of Salon Media Group announced that they intend to join the same union, the Writers Guild of America, East.
The decision by Salon employees, announced in a press release by the union Thursday, suggests that Gawker's high-profile union campaign may indeed have a domino effect in new media, which is generally a union-free world at the moment.
A statement signed by all 26 editorial employees said that "every single" staffer was on board with the decision.
"In the wake of the Gawker staff’s vote to organize with the WGAE, we see an opportunity to help establish standards and practices in Internet journalism," the employees wrote. "It’s an exciting moment for our field, and we want Salon to be at the forefront of change." (Read the full letter here.)
Salon has a long history of covering labor issues from the left, and unionizing would be the clearest way for employees to join the U.S. labor movement as a matter of principle. But, like at many new media sites, staffers surely have some basic workplace concerns of their own, and they likely see the potential for more security in a union contract. Organizing, they said in their statement, "will strengthen our mission, our vision and our productivity."
Despite plenty of disagreement among Gawker staffers about the need for a union, employees there had a relatively smooth path toward unionization, in large part because the company's owner pledged to remain neutral throughout the process.
It remains to be seen whether Salon ownership will voluntarily recognize the union -- a process that avoids a full-blown secret-ballot election, which is often accompanied by an anti-union campaign waged by ownership. But given Salon's liberal leanings and its sympathetic coverage of the labor movement, it would be borderline scandalous if management at the 20-year-old progressive website actively opposed the organizing effort.
In an email to The Huffington Post, David Daley, Salon's editor in chief, said, "Salon has, from its very inception, proudly embraced progressive values and a commitment to our workers and to labor. We look forward to discussing this initiative with the editorial staff and learning more about their objectives and goals. After we are able to have an open conversation, we'll be able to plot a course forward together."
Although legacy outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post have long been unionized, the campaigns by Gawker and now Salon mark the first headway made by unions in web-only journalism. Gawker's closely watched and successful campaign left media watchers wondering if other new media companies, like BuzzFeed, Vice and The Huffington Post, might follow suit.
Lowell Peterson, the union's executive director, said in a statement that Salon's decision to unionize would help raise standards in the industry.
“We agree that they can make a real difference in their own lives, and in the standards of digital media generally, by negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with their employer," Peterson said. "Our members share their commitment to crafting thoughtful stories, and understand that joining a union of creative professionals is an essential part of building sustainable careers doing meaningful work.”
This post has been updated with comment from Daley.