Feb 12, 2019 - Economy

BuzzFeed News employees vote to unionize after mass layoffs

Inside BuzzFeed headquarters in New York City.

Inside BuzzFeed headquarters in New York City. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Employees at BuzzFeed News announced Tuesday they have voted to unionize with the NewsGuild of New York, claiming in a statement that they have "legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more."

Why it matters: This comes weeks after the company laid off more than 220 employees, or roughly 15% of its workforce, including jobs within its news division. It is a huge blow to BuzzFeed's leadership, which has in the past suggested that it could be a better advocate for employees than a union could be.

  • The lay-off process proved that may not be the case. Employees had to fight to be compensated for their earned paid time off after being fired. Leadership eventually caved, but the fight presented bad optics for BuzzFeed executives.

BuzzFeed News Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith said in a statement: "We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union."

The big picture: Many media companies have unionized over the past few years in response to a rocky media landscape. Vox Media, Slate, Thrillist, New York Media and many other digital media sites have all voted to unionize over the past year.

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