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Unions Are Becoming Ubiquitous In Digital Media. Medium Is The Latest.

Published Monday, February 15, 2021
by Kerry Flynn/CNN Business
Unions Are Becoming Ubiquitous In Digital Media. Medium Is The Latest.

(NEW YORK CITY) - Gawker Media made history five years ago for being the first digital news company to ratify a Union Contract, kicking off a wave of Labor Organizing at digital outlets that has yet to recede.

Now, Staffers at the on-line publishing platform Medium have announced their intention to Unionize, following in the footsteps of GawkerHuffPostSalon, Slate, ViceBuzzFeed NewsVox MediaBustle Digital Group, Wirecutter and The Ringer - to name a few

Many local newspapers and legacy media organizations such as Hearst Magazines, Wired and The New Yorker also have joined the movement, as well as the digital arms of NBC News and MTV News.

"I think a lot of people perceive media as this white-collar profession, but the reality of working in a lot of media jobs was really low salaries, bad benefits, very little job stability," said Hamilton Nolan, a Labor Reporter for the magazine In These Times who worked at the now-shuttered Gawker and helped spearhead the Union efforts there. "One thing that Unions have done across the industry in many, many places is just to put in place a basic safety net for Workers."

Medium Workers Union represents about 140 Employees across departments including editorial, engineering, design and product.

A strong majority of those Staffers have signed Union Cards with Communications Workers of America (CWA), one of the country's largest Unions, which represents Staffers from tech companies like Alphabet and Glitch and those at media companies like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Founder Ev Williams launched Medium in 2012 as a place "where people share ideas and stories that are longer than 140 characters and not just for friends," a nod to what used to be the character limit on Twitter, the other platform he helped launch.

In addition to hosting content for professional and amateur Writers, Medium has launched several of its own publications including OneZero, GEN and Zora, which cover tech, politics and Women of Color, respectively.

In June, Colin Kaepernick joined Medium's board and announced plans to create stories for the platform about race and Civil Rights in the United States.

Last month, Medium acquired Glose, a digital platform for buying, reading and discussing books.

While many newsrooms have Unionized to address immediate concerns such as mass layoffs, lack of pay equity or glaring diversity issues, Medium Staffers said they are not seeking to bargain over specific changes, for now.

"Medium is a workplace ‘like any other where there are imperfections, there are issues, but we're not running to this initiative with a set of established demands,’" said Kelli María Korducki, Senior Editor at Forge, a Medium publication. "The ‘priority is really to unite’ the workforce."

Lyra Naeseth, a Principal Software Engineer at Medium, told CNN Business that Union's goal is "to alleviate the systemic imbalance in our workplace."

Management gets "to stand together, talk about values, talk about our plans," Naeseth said. "Our Union is an opportunity for the broader workforce to do the same."

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