Following a round of layoffs, employees of the digital media company Buzzfeed are working to establish a union with NewsGuide of New York. More than 200 people were let go from the company in January. In doing so, Buzzfeed joined several other digital media companies, including HuffPost, AOL and Yahoo, that have laid off workers. Buzzfeed’s CEO said the layoffs were necessary despite the company’s revenue growth.
Buzzfeed initially also said it would not pay earned PTO to the employees it laid off, but after public pressure, the company reversed its decision. Guaranteed paid time off was one of the demands of the unionizing employees along with affordable health insurance, 401(k)s, rights to their creative work, diversity, severance pay and due process when terminations were necessary. They also say there are unfair discrepancies in pay and other grievances. Buzzfeed employees have been trying to unionize for years without success, but they say they are increasing their efforts. The CEO of Buzzfeed has made statements indicating his resistance to unions.
More than 2,000 people in the news industry have lost their jobs since 2019 began. This is in addition to 5,000 jobs that were lost from 2014 to 2017 according to Pew Research Center. The Harvard Business Review reports that since 2015, the workplaces of 30 digital newspapers and news sites have become unionized.
Employees who are seeking union representation and employers whose employees are organizing into a union may want to consult an attorney. In the former example, employees may want guidance about their rights. In the latter example, employers may want to know what their responsibilities and obligations are to employees who wish to form a union. They may also want assistance in crafting employee policies and handbooks in light of employees’ union representation. If either employees or employers have a union-related dispute, an attorney might also be helpful.