Unionizing Salon Is Easier Said Than Done: 'We're Incredibly Frustrated,' Staffer Says

A union campaign can easily test the principles of a progressive organization.

The effort to unionize Salon is apparently off to a rockier start than some staffers had hoped. 

Editorial employees of the online news site announced unanimously earlier this month that they intended to join the Writers Guild of America, East, the same union that Gawker Media staffers joined this year. Given Salon's progressive politics, many employees believed the road to collective bargaining for staffers should be a relatively simple one.

But according to an employee familiar with the negotiations, Salon management has taken issue with the bargaining unit proposed by the staff -- i.e., they disagree over who should be allowed in the union. Management may want to limit the size of the bargaining unit, carving out workers whom the rest of the unit wants to see included.

To be clear, disputes over a bargaining unit are common during the unionization process, and Salon management has not mounted the aggressive anti-union campaign that many companies carry out. But staffers had hoped for a quick and clean recognition of the union by management, and it appears that may not be the case here.

According to one staffer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations are ongoing, it was disappointing, by comparison, to see how apparently easy the unionization process was for The Guardian's U.S. editorial employees. Staffers at that site announced this week that they had joined The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America.

"[W]e're incredibly frustrated, and learning of the Guardian's recognition of their staff's efforts was really disheartening," the staffer said in an email. "We're particularly annoyed given Salon's long history of supporting progressive causes."

Some supporters have taken to Twitter with the hashtag #SalonUnion in hopes of pressuring management to promptly recognize the union. That included Salon contributing writer David Dayen, who tweeted on Friday:

Asked by International Business Times about the negotiations, Salon CEO Cindy Jeffers said, "Our employees are very important to us, and we are carefully considering their request." IBT reported that a counteroffer by management this week was rejected by the union.

A spokesperson for Salon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the bargaining unit dispute.

A union campaign can easily test the principles of a progressive organization, especially at an outlet like Salon, which has a long history of diligent and sympathetic coverage of the U.S. labor movement.

The site's owners can find a cautionary tale in Media Matters. When unionization efforts hit a few snags there last year, the watchdog of conservative journalism found itself the subject of unflattering stories coming from both the left and the right.