Staff walks out of BuzzFeed News, wants management to recognize union

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 06: A copy of a BuzzFeed News newspaper is left discarded on a park bench near the Union Square subway station, March 6, 2019 in New York City. The digital publisher and media company printed a free one-time special edition newspaper, featuring some of BuzzFeed News latest stories and content. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

(CNN) — BuzzFeed News employees on Monday afternoon staged a walkout in an attempt to pressure the company to recognize their union.

Approximately 115 to 125 employees were expected to participate in the demonstration, a representative for the NewsGuild of New York, which represents the staffers, told CNN Business.

The walkout took place at all four of BuzzFeed News’ US bureaus in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, DC, the NewsGuild of New York said in its press release.

“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 the press release. “The BuzzFeed newsroom has the full support of the entire NewsGuild membership, and we are with them every step of the way.”

In New York City, BuzzFeed News staffers also held a rally in front of BuzzFeed’s headquarters. Staffers held signs that said, “RECOGNIZE THE BUZZFEED UNION!”

BuzzFeed News staffers have been negotiating with management for four months over union recognition. The effort ramped up after a round of layoffs in January highlighted the instability at BuzzFeed and other digital news shops like it.

Jonah Peretti, the founder and chief executive of BuzzFeed, said in an email to employees on Monday afternoon that the company “made an offer two weeks ago to voluntarily recognize NewsGuild as the representative of a BuzzFeed News union.”

Peretti described the proposal as “the product of more than three months of discussions and negotiations with the NewsGuild” and “both responsive to our employees’ requests, and mindful of the way the company operates.”

“Since we made our offer on June 4, news staff have refused to accept it, and instead are seeking to impose additional demands that threaten our progress around voluntary recognition,” Peretti wrote.

Peretti said the two sides remain deadlocked.

The first issue, according to Peretti, is a request from the union to “remove from the recognition agreement the list of job titles that will be excluded from the union.” Peretti said the list was “important because the company needs a reliable and consistent means of identifying those employees and new hires who are included and excluded from the bargaining unit.”

The second issue, according to Peretti, involves BuzzFeed’s ability to offer certain employees individual contracts. Peretti said the union has no objection to BuzzFeed providing contracts to certain employees that are “more generous than the terms of a future collective bargaining agreement.” But he said the union objects to the company’s ability to provide such contracts while in negotiation for a collective bargaining agreement.

A representative for the NewsGuild of New York did not immediately have a response to Peretti’s email.

The BuzzFeed News walkout comes just weeks after hundreds of Vox Media employees staged a walkout in an effort to compel management to come to an agreement for a union contract. Vox Media and its employees eventually reached a deal shortly after.

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