BuzzFeed Employees Stage Walkout Over Stalled Union Recognition

Workers have been negotiating with management for four months, including a meeting where BuzzFeed executives failed to appear.
Members of the BuzzFeed News team work at their desks at BuzzFeed headquarters in New York. Employees at the internet media a
Members of the BuzzFeed News team work at their desks at BuzzFeed headquarters in New York. Employees at the internet media and news company have been demanding that management recognize their union.

BuzzFeed News employees across the country staged a walkout Monday to demand voluntary recognition of their union after months of failed negotiations with management.

Employees at all four of BuzzFeed News’ bureaus ― in New York, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco ― left their newsrooms to demand recognition of their union with the NewsGuild of New York, the organization said.

BuzzFeed employees announced their union’s formation in February after 15% of its workforce was laid off. More than 90% of eligible editorial employees joined the unionization effort at the time, and a request to recognize the union was sent to BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, the group said in a statement.

BuzzFeed’s management had said it was prepared to recognize the union, the NewsGuild said, though there have been stalemates during their monthslong negotiations with workers.

BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti, in an email to staff on Monday, claimed a deal had not yet been finalized because of additional demands by the union, and said management made an offer two weeks ago that was turned down.

“Despite what you may hear to the contrary, we continue to have ongoing, daily communication between our lawyers, and we are confident the proposal provides a strong basis on which to move forward with the collective bargaining process,” Peretti said in the email, obtained by CNN’s Oliver Darcy. “Our offer is a good one and it remains on the table today.”

BuzzFeed’s union, in what appeared to be a response to Peretti’s email, called the management’s proposal “an unacceptable take-it-or-leave-it deal.”

“We demand that they continue working with us to reach a voluntary recognition agreement that does this newsroom justice,” read a message on the union’s Twitter account.

“Our members have grown tired of management stalling, and demand they return to the table in good faith,” Grant Glickson, president of the NewsGuild of New York, said in a statement on Monday. “The BuzzFeed newsroom has the full support of the entire NewsGuild membership, and we are with them every step of the way.”

“I hope BuzzFeed management could see this as an opportunity to show that they respect and value their employees, rather than reacting out of fear,” said BuzzFeed News deputy culture editor Rachel Sanders. “I hope they come back to the table so we can have a real conversation.”

BuzzFeed employees have cited diversity, unfair pay disparities, layoffs, weak benefits and health insurance costs among the issues they hope to address by unionizing.

I hope they come back to the table so we can have a real conversation. BuzzFeed News deputy culture editor Rachel Sanders

Smith did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

In April, employees’ unionization efforts received support from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio after the site’s executives bailed on a negotiation meeting.

“You didn’t just snub [BuzzFeed News’ union] yesterday, you insulted all working New Yorkers,” the mayor tweeted, while reminding BuzzFeed’s executives that New York is a “union town.”

The national NewsGuild is the largest union for news professionals. Its members include Law360, Mashable, New York magazine, Sports Illustrated, The Daily Beast, The New York Times, Thomson Reuters and Time magazine. Some members expressed their support of BuzzFeed’s union on social media on Monday.

HuffPost joined the Writers Guild of America, East, after its management voluntarily recognized its union in 2016. It ratified its first union contract in 2017.