Updated Mar 3, 2022 - Economy

GMG Union picks PE fight

Illustration of a raised fist clutching a computer mouse.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

As part of its open-ended strike that began March 1, the roughly 100 GMG Union members at G/O Media have begun asking people to send a letter of support to Great Hill Partners, the digital media company's private equity owners.

Why it matters: Private equity ownership has caused employee frustration across media, as workers allege the firms are not investing in either journalism or in staffers' well-being.

  • The union's suggested language — which readers would send to Great Hill CFO John Dwyer and Managing Director Chris Gaffney — reads, "Since the acquisition by Great Hill Partners, we have seen a great number of talented journalists leave G/O Media. As a reader, I am asking for contract provisions that will retain the beloved people who keep us reading, watching and listening."
  • The strike began after negotiations for its third contract failed. For the past three days, Kotaku, Jezebel and other G/O Media-owned sites have been mostly quiet as the union asks people not to contribute to or read the sites.
  • "We would think that in order for [Great Hill] to be happy with the sites doing well, you would want the workers doing well. If the workers are doing bad, you're not great at getting great content," Murjani Rawls, staff writer at The Root covering politics and a member of GMG Union's bargaining committee, tells Axios.

Details: GMG said G/O Media's management failed to provide adequate proposals on issues including fair wages and inclusive health care that follows the World Professional Association for Transgender Health's (WPATH) standards of care.

  • Rawls says the bargaining committee was negotiating throughout the weekend and until the "final hour."
  • "We felt that the management would not come to a deal or had no interest in the deal, especially when we were talking about the inclusion of WPATH and trans health care and gender-affirming health care, that it had to come to a strike," he says.
  • After publication of this story, G/O Media spokesperson Mark Neschis emailed Axios that the company's current health care plan does address these concerns. "G/O Media offers an inclusive and robust healthcare benefits package that does in fact include transgender/gender dysmorphia/gender affirming policy that follows WPATH standards of care," he writes in an email to Axios.
  • In a staff email sent Tuesday, G/O Media CEO Jim Spanfeller said management had bargained in good faith, and that the company invited GMG Union to return to the bargaining table.
  • GMG Union began picketing outside G/O Media's offices in New York on Tuesday, and Spanfeller sent doughnuts to the line yesterday.

Catch up quick: G/O Media is a group of digital media sites, some of which were part of Gawker Media Group until Hulk Hogan happened.

  • In 2016, Univision bought the bankrupted assets for $135 million and created Gizmodo Media Group (GMG).
  • Boston-based Great Hill's portfolio acquired GMG and The Onion from Univision and formed G/O Media in 2019. Since the sale, a slew of top editors have left.
  • Gawker unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East in 2015 and secured their first contract in 2016. Following the Univision sale, GMG Union formed and ratified a second contract in 2019.

What to watch: "We're ready to bargain," Rawls says. "We want to get back to work."

  • G/O Media spokesperson Mark Neschis tells Axios that management received a proposal from the union yesterday afternoon for a new bargaining date, but a session has not been confirmed.
  • Over text on Thursday, Rawls says, "We’re talking with the federal mediator to get some hard dates down and get some movement regarding outstanding items and proposals."

Great Hill declined to comment.

Editor's note: This piece was updated with comment by G/O Media spokesperson Mark Neschis on the company's current healthcare plan.

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