MEDIA

Al Jazeera America Digital Journalists Move To Unionize

"A troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress have persisted."
Al Jazeera America digital staff have voted to unionize.
Al Jazeera America digital staff have voted to unionize.

NEW YORK -- Digital journalists at Al Jazeera America have moved toward unionizing, joining a growing number of digital newsrooms that have organized in recent months.

In a mission statement released Thursday, employees said they "want to work with Al Jazeera management in a spirit of honesty, integrity and transparency — both to produce the news and to improve the workplace in which we produce it."

A majority of employees have asked management to voluntarily recognize the union, but have not yet taken a formal vote. 

“We are currently considering the request to voluntarily recognize the NewsGuild as the exclusive bargaining representative of the digital department employees," said an Al Jazeera America spokeswoman. "We have no further comment at this time.” 

Al Jazeera America, the 3-year-old channel launched by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera Media Network, has been the site of newsroom turmoil. The network's CEO left in May amid employees' claims of a "culture of a fear" in the New York newsroom. Several high-ranking women executives have also left, with a couple former employees filing lawsuits claiming discrimination.   

Employees wrote Thursday that there has be "a troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress" at Al Jazeera America Digital.

"Discrepancies in salaries, responsibilities and the way job performance is evaluated undermine our work and the harmony of our workplace," they wrote. 

Since June, Gawker, Salon, Guardian US and writers at Vice Media have all organized. Al Jazeera America, like Guardian US, is represented by NewsGuild-CWA. The other three are working with Writers Guild of America East. Both unions are actively trying to organize other media companies. 

"We’re excited to welcome the digital staff at Al Jazeera America to the Guild” said Peter Szekely, president of The NewsGuild of New York, in a statement.

“For over 80 years, the Guild has helped thousands of journalists and media workers translate their workplace concerns into real life solutions," he continued. "We’re ready to apply that knowledge and experience to our newest members at Al Jazeera America."

You can read the digital unit's full mission statement below:

“All of us at Al Jazeera America believe in a shared mission: delivering quality, cutting- edge journalism; going deeper; and amplifying the voice of the voiceless. We are proud to have helped build a vibrant and essential piece of one of the most respected media networks in the world.

 

Across our industry, journalists at some of the web's premier media establishments are choosing union representation. And now, the employees of Al Jazeera America Digital are joining them.

 

We want to work with Al Jazeera management in a spirit of honesty, integrity and transparency — both to produce the news and to improve the workplace in which we produce it.

 

We who are tasked with communicating the voice of the voiceless must retain a voice ourselves. The smart, creative, award-winning people who commit to this mission need to work in an environment that respects their efforts. We want our newsroom to exemplify the best practices of a modern, humane workplace that values diversity, equality and fairness.

 

As we enter our third year in the public eye, a troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress have persisted at AJAM Digital. Discrepancies in salaries, responsibilities and the way job performance is evaluated undermine our work and the harmony of our workplace.

 

We believe Al Jazeera America can do better. We call upon Al Jazeera's leaders to uphold its mission, not just to its audience but also to its employees.

 

By addressing institutional issues collectively, we can better resolve problems when they arise, do our jobs with dignity and achieve a measure of security that fosters world-class journalism.

 

That is why we are forming a union with The NewsGuild of New York, part of the Communications Workers of America. It has a long history of representing journalists, including digital journalists at The New York Times, Reuters, The Daily Beast and elsewhere.

 

We ask that Al Jazeera management recognize our choice and enter into a constructive, amicable collective bargaining process with us.”

CORRECTION: This article previously stated that journalists at Al Jazeera America had held a vote to unionize; they have in fact made a formal request to management to recognize their desire to unionize. No vote has been held. Language has also been updated to clarify that the above mission statement was written on behalf of all Al Jazeera America employees in the digital unit, and not just union organizers.  

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