BuzzFeed News Staff Plans To Unionize Following Sweeping Layoffs

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Journalists at BuzzFeed News’ U.S. operation announced Tuesday that, after years of organizing efforts, staffers are going public with their intention to unionize.

The announcement comes on the heels of BuzzFeed cutting 15 percent of its workforce in January, capping off a month in which sweeping layoffs left more than 1,000 digital media employees without jobs. The media organization is also reportedly considering a merger with Group Nine, a digital publisher that owns several media brands, including Thrillist and NowThis, to better position itself against giants like Facebook, which monopolize digital advertising dollars.

“We believe in this company, and in our management, even though they’ve fucked up a few times,” a letter from the organizing committee said. “BuzzFeed recently laid off about 15% of its workforce and it was uh, not handled great. But the overwhelming majority of employees are still here.”

BuzzFeed leadership faced swift backlash amid its downsizing, with cuts that occurred over several days and the laid-off staffers not getting paid for earned time off unless they lived in a state that required it, such as California. CEO Jonah Peretti soon reversed the paid-time decision.

Employees plan to form a union with NewsGuild of New York, which represents the New York Times, Reuters, the Los Angeles Times and other newsrooms.

A press release from NewsGuild noted that more than 90 percent of eligible editorial employees are on board with the union effort.

Unionizing newsroom staffers wrote they are organizing to address “unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more.” The letter also detailed employees’ efforts to organize over the years, though they ramped up unionizing efforts after the company laid off video staffers and its podcast team last fall. 

″We demand BuzzFeed News recognizes our union immediately so we can swiftly reach a mutually satisfying contract that lets us focus on the important work of reporting on Cardi B memes and breaking the biggest stories in the country,” the letter concluded.

The company can recognize the union voluntarily or demand that an election be held. BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith told Bloomberg he is looking forward to discussing “a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”

Along with BuzzFeed, media brands including HuffPost, AOL, Yahoo and Gannett-owned newspapers across the nation suffered major cuts last month. 

This article has been updated with comment from editor Ben Smith.

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