Employees at BuzzFeed News have agreed to form a union to address what organizers called "unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity, and more" — and the company signaled it is open to voluntary recognition.
The union's announcement on Tuesday came little more than two weeks after BuzzFeed laid off roughly 15% of its workforce, or more than 200 employees — cuts that hit the news division hard in bureaus in Los Angeles; San Francisco; Washington, DC; and New York.
“We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union,” Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News, said.
The employees have organized under the NewsGuild of New York. The organizing effort dates back to 2015, when a group of employees met with the guild to discuss workplace grievances.
Dominic Holden, a politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and a member of the organizing committee, said in an interview that employees were well on their way to unionizing before the latest round of layoffs. However, he said, the recent cuts "made it abundantly clear that we need a contract that protects workers during periods of intense transition.”
BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti has publicly stated in the past that he does not think a union is the right fit for the company.
Peretti recently agreed — after meeting with the BuzzFeed News staff council, an internal group made up of newsroom representatives across US bureaus — to compensate laid-off employees for unused vacation and comp days despite not legally being required to do so in some states, particularly New York.
BuzzFeed News is on track to be one of the last major newsrooms to unionize in the wake of industry pressures that have shrunk many media outlets. HuffPost ratified a contract with its newly formed employee union in 2017, covering more than 200 employees. And last year, Los Angeles Times employees voted overwhelmingly to form a union after years of corporate turmoil and deep newsroom cuts.