Editorial and video employees at Vox Media publicly announced their push to unionize on Friday, marking another digital newsroom attempting to organize amid an unforgiving media environment.
Staffers at the well-funded startup—which comprises eight sites including Vox.com, Eater, and The Verge—announced the move on a union website launched Friday morning. The organizing committee wrote in a statement that it hopes to build upon Vox Media’s “commitment to quality and innovation” with Writers Guild of America-East as its representative in contract negotiations.
“There is no better way to cultivate that innovation, and champion our values, than to unionize,” the organizing committee wrote. “An empowered team is an ambitious team, and the greater transparency and collaboration offered by a union will allow us to thrive and take risks in an ever-changing industry.”
Vox would be the latest in a string of newsrooms to unionize in recent years as media companies have been ravaged by budget cuts and staff reductions. Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, Vice, and others have all voted to join the Writers Guild of America-East. Even staffers at The Los Angeles Times, a notoriously anti-union newspaper in previous generations, made their unionization efforts public.
Despite the industry-wide shift toward organized labor, employees at some publications, including nominally liberal outlets like Slate, have encountered stiff resistance from management. Earlier this month, a billionaire Trump supporter abruptly shut down local New York sites DNAinfo and Gothamist just days after their staffs voted to join WGAE.
No word yet on whether management at Vox Media, which has raised more than $300 million in outside funding, will voluntarily recognize the union. I’ve reached out to a spokesperson for comment on that point and will update this post with any new information.
Just last month, the company fired Editorial Director Lockhart Steele after sexual harassment allegations by a former employee. Another employee reportedly resigned following an internal investigation into the company’s workplace culture. Previously, Deadspin’s Laura Wagner reported at length how the startup’s sports vertical, SB Nation, “profits off an army of exploited workers.”
Vox Media staffers’ effort comes as even darker clouds are forming over digital media. On Thursday, The Wall Street Journal reported that both BuzzFeed and Vice would miss their revenue targets this year. The tech site Mashable was also reportedly sold for a fraction of its 2016 valuation, and current and former employees told Splinter that management has yet to address the reports internally almost 24 hours since their publication.
The tech giants’ stranglehold on digital media companies is tightening. And for newsroom employees who might soon be in need of a safety net, the clock is ticking.