BuzzFeed News employees staged a walkout Thursday over stalled contract negotiations, with the nationwide demonstration coming the same day that the media company’s shareholders are set to vote on taking the company public.
The staffers’ union announced the walkout following what it said were nearly two years of stalled negotiations with upper management over wage increases and creative control.
“We’ve been bargaining our contract for almost 2 years, but BuzzFeed won’t budge on critical issues like wages — all while preparing to go public and make executives even richer,” the union said on Twitter while announcing its demonstration.
BuzzFeed shareholders are slated to vote Thursday to take the company public with a deal with a special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC. The company, which is the parent company of HuffPost, would then start trading under the stock ticker BZFD on Monday.
The staff’s union is demanding management raise its current offering of a guaranteed 1% annual raise and a proposed $50,000 salary floor. The union argues that that minimum salary is not competitive enough to attract diverse talent or appropriate for the high cost of living in major cities like New York and San Francisco, where the company has newsrooms.
The union also seeks greater creative control, arguing that the management seeks to further regulate the work employees do outside of their jobs. According to the union, management would need to approve freelance articles outside of an employee’s typical newsroom beat, a personal Medium post, TikTok makeup tutorial videos or outfit posts on Instagram.
Finally, the union said it seeks to prohibit employees from being disciplined for low traffic or revenue numbers on their work, which can be tallied by page views and clicks.
BuzzFeed has offered to give its union employees, as a whole, a minimum 2.5% wage increase. This would be broken down to each member receiving a guaranteed 1% raise and the remaining 1.5% of that 2.5% being distributed across the entire union based on merit. The company gave the workers’ union its second counteroffer on wages last week and has said it is awaiting a response.
“There’s a bargaining session planned for next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues,” a BuzzFeed spokesperson told HuffPost. “Before then, the company is gearing up for an incredibly exciting milestone: becoming the first publicly traded digital media company, and acquiring Complex Networks. We couldn’t be more excited about everything that lies ahead for BuzzFeed and its employees.”