The editorial staffs of Vox Media’s seven digital news outlets have voted unanimously to ratify their first-ever contract with the WGA East. The new three-year agreement covers some 350 writers and producers employed at Vox.com, Curbed, Eater, Polygon, Recode, SB Nation, and The Verge.
Negotiations for the new pact began more than a year ago, and a deal was reached on June 7 after more than 300 employees walked off the job in a one-day protest for a new contract.
“This landmark contract achieves all the goals laid out when Vox Media employees organized with the WGA East, from their intent to enhance workplace culture and increase transparency to improving diversity and ensuring the editorial staff has a voice in decisions affecting work life,” said Lowell Peterson, the union’s executive director. “Great things happen when working people unite and act collectively. Congrats to the union bargaining committee and the entire unit for working so hard for so long.”
The employees’ bargaining committee said in a statement: “We achieved this contract over the past year and a half at the bargaining table, leading up to the largest walkout in digital media history. Just as we stood in solidarity to demand better working conditions and fair wages, we are heartened that future digital media unions will continue to build on our gains. This historic contract would not have been possible without immense support from our fellow labor unions in digital media and beyond. We stand in solidarity with digital media workers everywhere who are organizing their shops and bargaining contracts to secure a better future for everyone in journalism. Together we bargain, divided we beg.”
According to the bargaining committee, “More than 90% of our 350-unit members voted, and every one of us voted yes on this contract, which is a testament to the strong language that this union was able to secure thanks to our solidarity. After 14 months of negotiations with Vox Media management, we were able to guarantee significant year-over-year raises for our members, including raises that will be retroactive to last July. Additionally, our contract establishes a salary minimum of $56,000 for all full-time exempt employees, a six-tier wage scale by job type to make pay and promotions more transparent, health insurance for part-time workers, 16 weeks of paid parental leave, total elimination of forced arbitration, and a severance package that provides a minimum of 11 weeks’ severance, paid COBRA, and recall rights if an identical job opens up within six months of a layoff.
“We are particularly proud of the diversity language in our contract. The company commits that 40% of the applicant pool who make it beyond the phone interview stage for open bargaining unit positions will be from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in journalism. That figure will be 50% for the most senior roles in the union. The company will also set aside a $50,000 annual budget for a union subcommittee devoted to improving diversity and equity at the company.”
The new contract is the latest in a wave of agreements the guild has reached with digital news outlets over the past 18 months, including Vice Media, Salon, ThinkProgress, The Dodo, Onion Inc., Thrillist and The Intercept. The guild also represents writers and producers at HuffPost, Slate, Fast Company, Talking Points Memo, MTV News and the Gizmodo Media Group.