Around 100 syndicated journalists, editors, artists, podcasters, social media specialists and videographers on sites such as Jezebel, The Root, Lifehacker, Kotaku, Jalopnik and Gizmodo went on strike Tuesday after the Gizmodo Media Group (GMG) syndicate contract expired. The GMG Union is a boutique of the Writers Guild of America, East, a union representing thousands of members who write content for film, television, news and digital media. The union broke new ground when the first digital media union when it was organized in 2015. It is also now the first digital media union to go on an indefinite strike for a fair contract, with 100% of members vote in favor of a strike of the 93 percent of members who voted.
The union’s contract expired on Monday evening and workers say G/O Media, a media conglomerate that includes the aforementioned publications as well as The AV club, the takeaways, the onionand inventorystalled its negotiations. These workers are fighting for trans-inclusive health care coverage, higher wages in the wake of inflation and the pandemic, work-from-home flexibility, protection against forced relocation to New York, additional parental leave, health care cost caps and increased efforts to hire diverse candidates. CEO of G/O Media Jim Spanfeller claimed that the terms offered to the GMG union were equivalent or even better than the terms agreed to by The Onion Union (a sister union of G/O) and said that management “struggles to understand why the terms accepted by half of the editorial union members last year are not acceptable to the other half now.
Murjani Rawls, striker and writer at The root, noted:
We firmly believe that the things we are fighting for in this new deal would greatly improve the lives of every creator who works at G/O Media. This includes better wages, better healthcare, which is also inclusive for our friends and staff who identify as trans and non-binary, and better work-from-home options. We are in 2022. Inflation is still high. The pandemic has changed the way we view work.
According to union website, G/O Media management insists on removing all guarantees that their current health care benefits and cost sharing will continue and refuses to codify the widely accepted standards of care of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. In the midst of a pandemic that has affected the health of large swathes of the working class and attacks on trans rights across the United States, particularly in Texas, it is absolutely abominable for the leadership of attack workers’ rights to affordable healthcare and trans healthcare coverage. These workers are explicitly fighting for the rights of their trans, non-binary and gender-wide spectrum colleagues in their bargaining agreement – a fight that all unions should take up. The working class is trans, queer and of color, and this struggle is a great example of how we can take the fight for especially oppressed workers where we have the most power: our workplaces.
As the union’s website states, “Labour has a right to everything it creates.” Workers should be able to decide on their working conditions and where they work. This struggle and its militancy should serve as an inspiration to all workers. When we use the power of our work to strike, it fundamentally changes the terrain of the struggle.
KS Mehta is a research assistant in New York.