Employees of NBC’s digital news consortium on Wednesday announced their plan to form a union in an effort to “build a more equitable workplace” and ensure their right to report stories that might show their company in a negative light.
The union will fall under the NewsGuild of New York and will represent about 150 editorial staff with NBC News Digital, which includes NBCNews.com, TODAY.com, NBC Stay Tuned, NBC News NOW.
Among the issues referenced in the announcement were things like closing gender and race wage gaps, addressing “chronic understaffing,” prioritizing diversity and ensuring other job protections.
“Management has indicated they are committed to addressing some of these issues—ending nine-hour working shifts, adjusting weekend staffing, increasing standard vacation time, and implementing select pay raises,” the release stated. “While we strongly welcome any steps forward, we want to cement these adjustments into an enforceable contract.”
The employees also highlighted recent claims of alleged sexual misconduct and racism at the company, as well as the “opaque” protocol around how NBC journalists are allowed to report on such claims.
“Recent weeks have highlighted serious questions as to how NBC News has handled incidents of sexual misconduct in the workplace as well as the opaque processes and procedures for reporting on and exposing powerful predators,” the announcement said.
Misconduct claims at the network’s news division have been given renewed attention this month in the wake of Ronan Farrow’s new book, “Catch and Kill.” Farrow left NBC News in 2017 to join The New Yorker, which published his months-long investigation into sexual abuse allegations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In his new book, Farrow alleges NBC News chairman Andrew Lack and the division president Noah Oppenheim attempted to block his work on the Weinstein story ― which he had started while working for NBC ― and that the network also covered up sexual assault allegations against former “Today” show anchor Matt Lauer.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow addressed the allegations on air last week, the same day that NBCUniversal said it would allow ex-staffers to break their nondisclosure agreements if they experienced sexual harassment at the network, but only if they went through the company first.
Chris Berend, the executive vice president of digital at the NBC News Group, sent a memo to staffers on Wednesday saying he was “deeply committed” to fostering a better workplace for all employees.
“Earlier today, some of our colleagues requested that the company voluntarily recognize the NewsGuild for a portion of the staff within NBC News Digital. As we all know, similar discussions have taken place across many digital newsrooms over the past few years,” Berend said. “I want you to know we are deeply committed to a fair and healthy workplace for all our employees. We welcome this dialogue from within our digital organization, and any constructive conversation aimed at building the future of NBC News Digital and ensuring that we’re the best we can be.”