Gawker Staff Votes To Unionize

Gawker Media’s editorial staff will be joining the Writers Guild of America, East.

The efforts to bring the company into the WGAE (a union best known for representing film and television writers) have drawn broader attention because Gawker is now the first online-only media organization to unionize. Back in April, when the attempt to join a union became public, Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan wrote:

There was a time when much of the media was unionized. As journalism has moved online and flourished over the past 20 years or so, union workplaces have become much more rare in our industry. Gawker Media would be the first major online media company to organize. That is something that everyone at this company — employees, management, and owners alike — could be proud of. There are plenty of companies in this industry whose workers could desperately use the help of a union. If we can show that it’s possible, I hope that a positive precedent will be set.

The staff voted on the issue yesterday, and the results were announced this morning — 75 percent voted yes, 25 percent voted no. (You can read pro-and-con arguments in the comments thread here.) More than 90 percent of the 118 eligible voters participated.

“As Gawker’s writers have demonstrated, organizing in digital media is a real option, not an abstraction,” said WGAE Executive Director Lowell Petersen in a statement.

Will other online newsrooms follow Gawker’s lead? Well, I imagine a lot of us will be watching to see what happens now. Gawker’s staff says the next steps include forming a bargaining committee and negotiating a contract.

Update: Gawker’s post led to a pretty amazing exchange. Ousted editor Joel Johnson left a comment offering his view on the company business. He said that it brings in $35 to $45 million in revenue each year and is slightly profitable. However, he also pointed out the failure of Gawker’s publishing/commenting/social media platform Kinja and he described founder Nick Denton as someone with “a ceaseless paranoia” that has resulted in a company that’s “reactionary, not visionary.”

And hey, Denton responded. He acknowledged that some of Johnson’s points are accurate, while also arguing that “the jury is still out on Kinja.” And Denton had this to say about Gawker: “Only Gawker Media is independent. It is uncompromised. It is unique. It is a human story in an age of machine-driven content churn.”