An apparent breakdown in talks between BuzzFeed management and the company’s newsroom union spurred expressions of solidarity from other unions — and even from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The employees of BuzzFeed News (the company’s journalistic arm) voted to unionize in February, following major layoffs. At the time, Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith reportedly responded, “We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”
But those discussions appear to have come to a halt. The union said that yesterday, BuzzFeed executives failed to show up for a meeting, only informing union representatives of this five minutes after the scheduled start time.
“The biggest sticking point has been the company’s opposition to an ‘editorial unit’ — a recognition of the newsroom as a whole rather than a list of specific titles,” the union wrote in a letter to BuzzFeed News staff. “Recognizing an editorial unit is the industry standard across digital and print newsrooms and is a part of all NewsGuild contracts, from the New York Times, Daily Beast, Los Angeles Times, and New Yorker. We were ready to discuss this issue, along with which employees should be included in the union, with management at today’s meeting.”
In response, a BuzzFeed spokesperson told Splinter, “BuzzFeed has made specific, reasonable offers (and concessions) with the goal of voluntarily recognizing a BuzzFeed News union. We hope the union will return to discussing specific titles and positions — the subject of weeks of negotiations — rather than focusing on an area where we continue to disagree.”
A number of other newsroom unions criticized BuzzFeed management’s behavior. For example, the Gizmodo Media Group union wrote, “do BuzzFeed execs know that flagrantly disrespecting your workers’ time and efforts in this manner is, uh, a pretty great way to make a rock solid case for why your company needs a union immediately?”
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted in support of the union as well, declaring that New York is “a union town” and that BuzzFeed management “insulted all working New Yorkers.”
“To the union: This city stands with you,” de Blasio wrote. “To the management: Come. To. The. Table.”
According to The Daily Beast, BuzzFeed responded with the following statement (it’s not clear in what context): “This process is not going to benefit from the involvement of a deeply unpopular mayor who has expressed an open disdain for journalists during his time in office.”
We’ve reached out to BuzzFeed for comment and will update if we hear back.