Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!
Data: Axios research; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The COVID-19 crisis has triggered a massive uptick in news media unionization efforts, union leaders tell Axios.

Why it matters: The trend is only going to grow bigger once people head back to work in-person, says Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild.

More consolidation in the industry via SPACs and local news takeovers will also drive record unionization efforts.

  • "We have been organizing like crazy since the pandemic," says Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the Writers Guild of America, East.
  • "It's going to explode," says Schleuss. "This will be a record year for unionization in the industry."

Three key trends have pushed journalists to unionize over the past year, union executives tell Axios.

  1. Financial uncertainty: Journalists rushed to unionize early on in the pandemic following rounds of layoffs that were triggered by ad-industry headwinds. "Whenever there is concern about economic security, that is one of the factors leads people to unionize," says Peterson.
  2. SPACS and consolidation: Later in 2020, media companies began eyeing SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) deals that would allow outlets to go public and merge with other companies. Concerns about consolidation and new leadership have pushed more journalists to seek union protection.
  3. Social justice: A rise in political protests, and movements around racial justice, over the past year, have pushed journalists to seek further safety protections from unions, as well as better representation around diversity and inclusion.

By the numbers: In 2020, more than 1,800 journalists across unions from the NewsGuild and the Writers Guild (of America) unionized, according to data from the leaders of both groups. That's up from roughly 1,500 the year prior.

  • In 2020, Schleuss said the NewsGuild saw unionization efforts from more than 30 outlets, compared to 18 in 2019 and 20 in 2019.
  • In 2021, more than 200 journalists have already unionized with the NewsGuild and hundreds more are pending.

Driving the news: Insider became the latest digital media company to organize when its U.S. editorial staff said it was forming a union with the NewsGuild of New York on Monday.

  • In a video tweeted by the union, journalists at Insider say they've voted to unionize to "secure what we've built and strengthen it."
  • Last week, The New York Times' 650 tech workers also formed a union. Other major outlets to unionize in the past few months include Bustle Digital Group, NowThis and Wired, in addition to dozens of other local outlets.

What to watch: In the past few years, more local newsrooms have pushed to unionize in response to hedge fund and private equity takeover threats.

  • Schleuss says that more than 40 different newsrooms within Gannett, the nation's largest newspaper company, have unionized, as well as more than a dozen from McClatchy, which sold to a hedge fund last year.

Tribune Publishing newspapers, whose fate hangs in the balance of billionaires trying to upend a hedge fund takeover, are using unionization to try to protect journalists from the inevitable cuts.

  • Over the past few years, nearly every outlet within Tribune Publishing has unionized, says Schleuss.

The bottom line: Peterson says news media unionization efforts have increased steadily over the past few years, but "it's been more intense during the pandemic."

  • "All of these factors have combined to really make this a powerful movement," says Peterson.

Go deeper

Complaint alleges Amazon interfered in Alabama warehouse unionization vote

A sign outside the Amazon fulfillment center in Beesemer. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

A complaint by the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) alleges that Amazon illegally interfered in the union election at its Bessemer, Alabama warehouse, CNBC reports.

The big picture: The RWDSU alleged in its complaint to the National Labor Relations Board that Amazon threatened layoffs, loss of pay or benefits, or a facility closure if workers voted in favor of the effort which flopped earlier this month.

Minnesota governor denounces alleged police violence against media

Law enforcement officers pepper spray freelance photographer Tim Evans (L) as he identifies himself a working journalist outside the Brooklyn Center police station on Friday. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Gov. Tim Walz (D) spoke out Sunday over allegations that journalists covering unrest in the Twin Cities suburb of Brooklyn Center have endured police violence, telling CBS Minnesota: "Apologies are not enough, it just cannot happen."

Why it matters: Since violations of press freedoms came to national attention last year, with reports of journalists being arrested and assaulted while covering anti-racism protests, violent encounters with law enforcement seem to have become the norm.

Updated 20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Prosecutor to seek hate crime charges, death penalty in Atlanta shootings

In Hopkinton, Mass., the Rally & Run To Stop Asian Hate is held to show solidarity in the wake of deadly Atlanta shootings and to mourn the loss of eight lives including six Asian women. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Prosecutors unveiled murder charges against the white man accused of shooting and killing eight people, six of whom were Asian women, at Atlanta-area spas, AP reports.

Driving the news: A prosecutor filed notice that she plans to seek hate crime charges and the death penalty in the case. Two separate grand juries have now indicted the suspect on murder charges.