Gawker Media signs union contract with its employees, the first at a digital media company

Gawker Media, a New York based online media company and blog network, founded and owned by Nick Denton, has announced that it has struck a three year deal with a union, a deal that sets working conditions and payment rates for its employees. Gawker Media owns the sites Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, Kotaku, Jalopnik, and Jezebel. Tech and digital based companies often function outside of the criterion of labour laws, circumventing the laws and not adhering to any regulations. This is how tech companies like Uber have or are getting away with not adhering to any employee regulations that are enforced in the cities that it operates in.

The negotiations between the union and Gawker Media have been ongoing for months now but only now have the Gawker Media employees managed to successfully come to an agreement with the company on a union agreement. Gawker’s employees are expected to vote on the contract over the course of next week. It was in 2015 that Gawker became the first digital media company to unionize, followed by Salon, Vice Media, Huffington Post and Guardian US, who are yet to negotiate union contracts with their employees.

The contract is the first of its kind at a digital media company and hopes to set an example that will be followed by many digital companies and media at large, be it traditional or digital, as media companies still pay what they want to pay. Th Already, two digital media publications, Huffington Post and Vice, have followed Gawker Media and have started negotiating union contracts to standardise pay rates and benefits. The Writers Guild of America, East, represented Gawker Media employees.

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Some of the conditions and terms that the two parties, Gawker Media and its employees, have agreed on include a $50, 000 minimum salary per year for any full time Gawker employee, Senior writers, video producers and editors will get a base salary of $70, 000, Deputy editors and some smaller site leads will have $90, 000 minimum salary. The terms of the deal also cover freelancers and it stipulates that freelancers will either be hired or let go after one full year and part time freelancers will have their pay increased to the same daily pay levels as full-time employees.

At the center of the negotiations was Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan, who has for some time now, since April 2015, preached that writers at digital media should unionize to stop the unequal pay amongst employees. The agreement will be in effect from 1 March 2016 through to 28 February 2019.

Speaking to Re/code Hamilton Nolan said that

“The more big companies in this industry get union contracts, the more pressure there will be for low-paying outliers to raise their wages to the industry standard in order to attract competent employees. Industries that are widely unionized tend to have better pay (because workers have leverage), and that’s where I hope our industry is headed soon. Also, the more companies get union contracts, the greater salary transparency we’ll have throughout the whole industry, which helps workers as well.”

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A statement that is attributed to Nick Denton, Gawker President and legal chief Heather Dietrick and editorial boss John Cook, reads

“This agreement guarantees that the driving force of our company—the writers and others who collaborate to make our seven sites influential, impassioned, and read by 100 million people around the world each month—will continue to freely express themselves while enjoying the security, fair wages, and quality benefits they have earned”

Under the new negotiated contract, Gawker’s current health plan will remain as it is. The company has agreed to absorb the first 10% increase in health costs in year one and again in year two.

The union contract covers diversity. Gawker Media has committed to engage the editorial diversity committee formed by the union on a regular basis to discuss diversity in hiring and ongoing concerns at the company.



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