POLITICS

Fusion Staff Is On The Brink Of Unionizing

The news site is part of a growing trend of organizing within digital media.
Fusion's staff at work in the company's newsroom in Doral, Florida.
Fusion's staff at work in the company's newsroom in Doral, Florida.

Fusion, Univision’s news outlet aimed at millennials, is poised to become the latest digital newsroom to unionize, continuing a wave that has swept the industry in the past two years.

A majority of Fusion’s online editorial staff members have signed cards electing Writers Guild of America, East, to represent them in bargaining sessions with management, employees leading the drive announced Wednesday in an open letter.

The letter emphasized Fusion’s progressive editorial leanings in making its case for unionization.

“Fusion has produced an impressive body of work about how the right to organize is critical for American workers,” the Fusion Union Organizing Committee wrote, as BuzzFeed first reported. “It’s time we practice what we preach.”

The committee goes on to lay out basic demands the workers hope to fulfill through collective bargaining, such as salary minimums for specific positions and a “standard” for raises; transparency about changes in workers’ responsibilities and hours; and “clear standards” for assessing employees’ job performance.

The union plans to ask management for voluntary recognition next week, according to Lowell Peterson, executive director of WGA-E. First, though, it wants to build up more support among staff.

Peterson estimates that the bargaining unit would consist of 80 staff members, including people who produce content for Fusion’s website, television channel and other platforms.

“This is of a piece with the organizing that’s been going on in digital media for some time,” Peterson told The Huffington Post. “It reflects a certain level of confidence on the part of digital media editorial side folks that this is a meaningful way to make a career and a recognition that collective bargaining is a way to make that happen.”

Univision and ABC News started Fusion ― originally conceived as an outlet for young Latinos ― in October 2013, but ABC News sold its 50 percent share to Univision in April amid disappointing numbers. Fusion’s cable channel, in particular, has faced challenges, with two major cable carriers declining to offer the channel in their packages. 

Peterson said he wasn’t aware of any concerns regarding Fusion’s financial viability. “They are certainly expanding their presence,” he said.

If Fusion’s effort succeeds, the outlet will join several digital outlets that have organized in recent months. HuffPost, Vice Media, Salon and ThinkProgress have all unionized with WGA-E, which had previously mostly represented television and film writers. Gawker Media, which is now owned by Univision, kicked off the wave when editorial staff officially voted to form a union in June 2015.

The Guardian U.S. and Law 360 have both unionized with the NewsGuild, which represents workers at many iconic legacy news organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

“People have been inspired to see that collective bargaining is actually possible,” Peterson said of the timing of the Fusion organizing drive.

UPDATE: 9:14 p.m. ― Fusion management will try to convince employees not to unionize, according to an email to the staff obtained by BuzzFeed.

“We’ll be sharing information directly with you and encouraging you to investigate and ask questions so that you have a complete picture on what Guild representation would mean,” Fusion executives Boris Gartner and Danny Eilemberg wrote in the Wednesday night message. “At the end of that process, we think you will agree that Guild representation would not be beneficial for you or FUSION.”

Disclosure: The author is a member of the bargaining committee with the WGA-E currently in negotiation with The Huffington Post. 

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