A majority of Vox Media’s staff has decided to unionize, leaders of the organizing effort announced Friday.
The estimated 350 eligible workers at the digital media company join a wave of unionization that has re-shaped the online news industry in the past three years. Vox is the largest all-digital media firm to unionize.
“By organizing, we intend to protect the nimble culture and inclusive, forward-thinking values that make this company great, and to ensure all concerns and challenges can be addressed by a collective voice,” the Vox Union Organizing Committee wrote in a letter announcing their plans to management. “An empowered team is an ambitious team, and the greater transparency and collaboration offered by a union will allow us to thrive and take risks in an ever-changing industry.”
A majority of Vox Media employees have signed cards nominating the Writers Guild of America, East, as their collective bargaining agent. If Vox Media voluntarily recognizes the unionization, it would then proceed to negotiations with the union over the first collectively bargained contract. Alternately, the company could demand a more substantial affirmation of employee support for unionization, such as a secret-ballot election.
Vox Media is home to eight name-brand sites, including Vox.com, SB Nation and Eater. The staff includes writers, editors and social media professionals, as well video producers and others. In the letter declaring its intention to unionize, the organizing committee cited a desire for greater unity within its diverse and geographically disparate workforce.
“Most importantly, a union will offer a company of far-flung co-workers a robust sense of community and nurture a culture of respect,” the committee added. “An organized workforce provides support for each employee, and any one of us in need should feel empowered by the rest of us.”
Vox Media staff are seeking to lock in the pay and benefits they currently enjoy, according to the letter. But they are also hoping to gain greater transparency on employee pay, security in the event of layoffs, better protections for part-time and freelance workers, and ensure company policies that “foster a diverse workforce.”
Since June 2015, over half a dozen digital media outfits have unionized, including the group of sites formerly known as Gawker Media, Vice Media, Salon, ThinkProgress, The Guardian U.S. and Law 360. HuffPost, which is also represented by the Writers Guild, ratified its first collective bargaining contract in January.
Below is the full text of the letter that the Vox Union Organizing Committee sent to management:
Vox Media’s editorial and video staff are proud to announce we are unionizing with the Writers Guild of America, East. Across eight verticals, we are committed to smart, in-depth journalism and storytelling on every platform. Vox Media’s commitment to quality and innovation, as well as its core values emphasizing ambition, collaboration, and respect, have made this one of the best places to work in the industry. There is no better way to cultivate that innovation, and champion our values, than to unionize.
By organizing, we intend to protect the nimble culture and inclusive, forward-thinking values that make this company great, and to ensure all concerns and challenges can be addressed by a collective voice. An empowered team is an ambitious team, and the greater transparency and collaboration offered by a union will allow us to thrive and take risks in an ever-changing industry.
Most importantly, a union will offer a company of far-flung co-workers a robust sense of community and nurture a culture of respect. An organized workforce provides support for each employee, and any one of us in need should feel empowered by the rest of us.
Unions have made traditional newsrooms across America stronger and better for decades, and we’re excited to join the movement in digital media to bring these protections to this industry.
From new hires to longtime employees, we are eager to continue our leadership in digital media, and to do so we need a seat at the table as Vox Media charts its future.
Here are a few key issues we seek to address.
Protecting and strengthening our culture
Vox Media is an excellent place to work; it is also a grown-up corporation still bearing artifacts of a young start-up. Employees want the company to stay flexible and evolve. We also want consistency in titles, salaries, raises, and benefits, all of which can become arbitrary if unchecked or opaque. We expect transparency around company hierarchy and paths for career growth within it, including standard cost-of-living raises in salary.
Vox Media will eventually buy or sell properties, engage with investors and advertisers, and perhaps discipline or lay off employees. In any such case, we want to preserve our benefits, to ensure our fair share of capital, and to protect individuals and their work from forces outside their control.
Increasing transparency and communication
We want increased transparency in times of growth or crisis, before and after major decisions, and accountability within the company’s existing editorial and management structures to ensure that all actions are sensible, fair, and consistent across all Vox Media-owned brands. Much of Vox Media’s workforce is employed remotely, and organizing allows us to ensure that all of these employees, including part-time staffers and freelance contributors, are treated fairly in terms of compensation and expectation.
Holding Vox Media accountable for diversity
We want to foster a diverse workforce, and an environment that promotes and respects that diversity. We also want to ensure Vox Media is a safe work environment for every employee.
We seek a continued commitment to hiring inclusively, a focus on promoting people of color within the company, and formal processes for addressing when company culture fails to reflect these values.
Ensuring our seat at the table
A Vox Media union will give us the means to maintain everything we love about working for this company, and to have a collective voice when we address anything that may change or founder. We look forward to bringing Vox Media employees together as an organized unit, and bringing that unit closer to management at the bargaining table and beyond.