Staffers with NBC News Digital voted to unionize, they announced Wednesday, in a move the employees hope will help provide them "a collective voice in decisions that will benefit the entire company, providing much-needed transparency, and ensuring a safer workplace."
"We seek to build a more equitable workplace in order to enhance the quality and breadth of our journalism and continue to work in the newsroom that we love," the NBC News Guild said in a statement.
In a memo to staff responding to the announcement, NBC executive vice president of digital Chris Berend sounded an initially conciliatory note.
"I want you to know we are deeply committed to a fair and healthy workplace for all our employees," said Berend. "We welcome this dialogue from within our digital organization, and any constructive conversation aimed at building the future of NBC News Digital and ensuring that we're the best we can be."
The guildmembers said they were moved to unionize in part because of NBC's mishandling of racist incidents and incidents of sexual harassment and assault, a major topic of news in recent weeks with the publication of journalist Ronan Farrow's book "Catch and Kill." The book details how the company deprioritized Farrow's reporting on former Hollywood producer and alleged serial rapist Harvey Weinstein in order to protect former NBC personality Matt Lauer from exposure from allegations of multiple instances of rape and sexual harassment.
NBC journalists on why they’re unionizing. https://t.co/DzjPYZQGSH— Ronan Farrow (@RonanFarrow) October 30, 2019
"NBC News has mishandled serious incidents of sexual misconduct and racism without the transparency and sensitivity such issues require," the guild's statement said. "We have seen the company repeatedly invest in on-air talent and PR management, while mental health support, digital and physical security, and individual professional development remain underemphasized and underfunded."
According to The New York Times:
The workers involved in the organizing campaign write articles and produce videos for several websites, including NBCNews.com and Today.com. They said they hoped to win a number of concessions, including eliminating pay disparities between white men and women and minorities, an improved severance policy, better job protections and more guidance about the company's long-term plans for the digital division.
They also want to speak publicly, without concern for their job security, about controversies at the news division. Being part of a union, they say, would allow them to go public with criticisms of their bosses.
The unionization announcement won the support of journalists, progressives, and politicians.
"Congratulations to workers at NBC News Digital," tweeted Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt), a candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. "As we fight the corporate consolidation of media across the country, we must make it easier, not harder, for all workers to organize and join unions."
In a tweet, NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny expressed solidarity with her unionizing coworkers and referred to a tumultuous month in digital media that, as Common Dreams reported, saw the shuttering of news site Splinter and an aggressive push from the private equity owners of G/O Media, which also owns sports and culture site Deadspin, to kill the latter's editorial independence.
"If there was any doubt, recent weeks have been a stark reminder that there is strength in numbers, workers are better with job security, and the people doing the journalism should have a seat at the table," said Zadrony.