International Brotherhood of Memesters, Local One-oh-Snark
June 3, 2015 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Today, Gawker editorial staff vote on whether to unionize with Writers Guild of America, East, saying that transparency in compensation and fair health benefits are among the issues that have led them to organize.

The vote has been called significant because it would represent the first organization of digital media workers, and could challenge the view of unions as a thing of another era, reluctant to embrace the present. As Steven Greenhouse writes in the LA Times, "If the unionization effort succeeds, it will be a big PR boost for the ailing labor movement. It will show that unions, which have focused in recent years on organizing low-wage workers, can also attract hip, highly educated workers, many of them Ivy League graduates. But if Gawker staffers reject the union, it will be an embarrassing blow to labor, especially because so much of the Gawker debate has been out in the open."

"Out in the open" refers to a fair amount of discussion on Twitter, as well as on the Gawker site, with both the affected workers and the general readership weighing in on a post that has generated over 1,000 comments. The debate among editorial staff has been acrimonious at times, and Gawkerly so, e.g. “I’m going to shove Tommy into a pool while he has his phone in his pocket." Some have interpreted the comments coming out of the workforce to mean that the unionization effort has faltered.

The Gawker bosses have decided to remain neutral in the question, an unusual move among employers faced with an organizing workforce, and the employer's "Politburo" and the WGA issued a joint statement declaring a shared desire for the question to be settled without acrimony. The statement notes that, "The traditional process of union authorization runs through the National Labor Relations Board. But by mutual agreement we are bypassing this route in favor of holding our own secret-ballot vote, to be held on Wednesday, June 3..."

The American Prospect places the vote within the context of the current state of new media and organized labor, and notes that,"If anything, the Gawker organizing drive is a fascinating inside look into a process that is usually shrouded in secrecy, not plastered on the web for all to see."
posted by univac (18 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
Previously.
posted by univac at 9:30 AM on June 3, 2015


> The vote has been called significant because it would represent the first organization of digital media workers, and could challenge the view of unions as a thing of another era...

Like benefits! And paid vacation! And pensions!
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:54 AM on June 3, 2015 [6 favorites]


"International Brotherhood of Memesters" just made my day.
posted by willie11 at 9:56 AM on June 3, 2015 [11 favorites]


The real test is going to be the first strike. Cross a teamster/longshoremen picket line, you're going to get your face re-arranged. Cross the writers picket line and you'll get....

Unkind blog comments! Oh the horror.
posted by dr_dank at 10:14 AM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


dr_dank: "Cross a teamster/longshoremen picket line, you're going to get your face re-arranged."

Ha ha, labor violence!

dr_dank: "Cross the writers picket line and you'll get...."

Unemployed
posted by rhizome at 10:35 AM on June 3, 2015 [4 favorites]


Maybe I'm just ignorant on this, but why did they select WGA East? Isn't it a group for TB and film writers? Wouldn't the National Writers Union or International Federation of Journalists make more sense from an occupational standpoint?

Or is it that writers at Gawker perceive these as too limited in their powers?
posted by northtwilight at 10:40 AM on June 3, 2015


Maybe their choice of WGAE speaks to the greater ambitions of the Denton Universe.
posted by rhizome at 10:46 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


No matter what the outcome, I think it's been an awesome experience to see the unionization process discussed candidly and (more or less) openly in such a high-profile venue.

I work at a union business, but in a role that's not traditionally unionized, and I think it's a real shame how many of the coworkers in my department don't seem aware of the importance and the benefits of the union for our positions. There's some class issues or something going on there, I believe, and I'd love to see the Gawker situation serve as at least a partial eye-opener for other folks in the creative industries.
posted by redsparkler at 10:49 AM on June 3, 2015 [8 favorites]


Maybe I'm just ignorant on this, but why did they select WGA East? Isn't it a group for TB and film writers? Wouldn't the National Writers Union or International Federation of Journalists make more sense from an occupational standpoint?

I think mostly because that's who approached the staff. The WGA East met with Gawker employees in April, and I've heard that talks with individual employees have been happening quietly since at least February.

Why the WGAE approached Gawker is an interesting question. In the last 6 years, studios have made fewer movies. The WGAW has noted a 24% drop since 2009. So they've been focusing on expanding further into television and production in digital media, like Netflix. They probably see Gawker Properties as a hybrid between traditional journalism and niche entertainment and predict that field will see significant growth in the future.
posted by zarq at 11:12 AM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure that Gavin Polone piece has a giant sarcasm tag.
Surprisingly, the most prominent WGA defier, John Ridley, who publicly renounced his guild membership in opposition to the strike, continued to work as a screenwriter, even after his transgression. But the long tail of guild retribution finally whipped back around to slap him in the face this year when it was announced that Ridley, because he had left the guild, would NOT be eligible for a WGA award nomination for his adaptation of 12 Years a Slave. KAPOW! Oh, I'm sure that hurt. I mean, the WGA award is the granddaddy of them all and worth more than his Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award nominations combined.
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:18 AM on June 3, 2015 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure that Gavin Polone piece has a giant sarcasm tag.
Plus huge tags for blathering, incomprehensible and just plain dumb. I wonder how many WGA writers he needed before he got 'greylisted' to be able to write a simple email, let alone a movie.
posted by oneswellfoop at 12:58 PM on June 3, 2015


"The real test is going to be the first strike. Cross a teamster/longshoremen picket line, you're going to get your face re-arranged. Cross the writers picket line and you'll get....

Unkind blog comments! Oh the horror."
posted by dr_dank at 12:14 PM on June 3


Well - what happens if future Tech Union Tough Guys end up being basically 4Chan/Gamergate style assholes fucking over and cyberstalking scabs...

That's... kind of terrifying.
posted by symbioid at 2:32 PM on June 3, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wonder how it's determined who an employee is, and thus who would be eligible to join. I used to work for Pet Holdings (AKA I Can Has Cheezburger), but I was decidedly not an official employee when it came to paperwork and taxes.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:54 PM on June 3, 2015


Well - what happens if future Tech Union Tough Guys end up being basically 4Chan/Gamergate style assholes fucking over and cyberstalking scabs...

That's... kind of terrifying.


And pretty much not at all something to worry about, really. There have been a number of WGA strikes, some even with scabbing involved, for a very long time without teh l33t hax0rz coming to have the scabs rekt. Not that my first concern would be for the scabs, to be honest.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:12 PM on June 3, 2015 [2 favorites]


The yeas have it, 80 to 27.
posted by zabuni at 7:11 AM on June 4, 2015 [6 favorites]


Former editor Joel Johnson shows up in the comments of the announcement zabuni linked, praising the editorial staff and taking an interesting swipe at Denton. John Herrman, who typically has very interesting perspectives on the Internet's content killing fields, also takes a dim view of Denton's motivations.

I'm in an industry with little union presence (haha, that narrows it down!) and I'd jump at a chance like this. Good for them.
posted by superfluousm at 9:53 AM on June 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


zabuni: “The yeas have it, 80 to 27.
Given what Herrman writes in superfluousm's link above, I'm going to disable Adblock on Gawker sites.
posted by ob1quixote at 1:31 PM on June 4, 2015


Gawker’s Moment of Truth
“I’m pretty sure we have a revolution coming,” said Nick Denton, founder and chief executive of Gawker Media. “It’s not 100 percent guaranteed, but the existing corporate structure is looking pretty hollow.”

It was a mild spring evening, and Mr. Denton, who is 48, was standing on the fire escape of his SoHo loft in a long-sleeve T-shirt and jeans, smoking a joint and drinking a glass of red wine with his husband, Derrence Washington; Tommy Craggs, the executive editor of his media empire; and me.

As Mr. Denton eased into his soliloquy — “Look at those Midtown towers: What are those people doing all day?” — Mr. Craggs started cracking up.

“What?” Mr. Denton asked.

“You just wrote the lead of his story,” Mr. Craggs said, nodding toward me. “ ‘Midway through his first joint, Nick Denton said a revolution was coming.’ ”

“He can’t use that,” Mr. Denton replied. “You can’t use that — I mean, realistically, in The New York Times.”

Mr. Craggs insisted that I could, and I would. They ended their argument with a bet.

Go collect your $50, Mr. Craggs.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:04 PM on June 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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