Vox employees are going on a 'Slack Strike' to push for a union

Vox employees are going on a 'Slack Strike' to push for a union

vox media

Vox Media

  • Vox Media appears close to unionizing, though one sticking point appears to be whether some editors can be included in an editorial union.
  • Union organizers are planning a "Slack strike," where they will sign off of the messaging platform Slack to show the number of pro-union supporters.  

Vox Media employees are taking action to push for management to voluntarily recognize their editorial union.

In November, Vox employees announced that they planned to form an editorial union, and began negotiations with management and the Writer's Guild of America East.

In an email to staff on Wednesday, the union's organizing committee said management had "moved considerably toward voluntary recognition," but the two sides remain "far apart on the full scope of the unit." According to two people who spoke to Business Insider on the condition of anonymity, one sticking point for the union has been management's insistence that no employees who oversee staff should be permitted to join the union, while organizers hope to allow some editors to join.

Union representatives from WGA-E plan to meet with management's outside counsel on Friday to determine the specifics for which employees are permitted to be in the union.

In order to pressure management to "do the right thing," organizers planned several actions on Thursday afternoon, including several union lunches in New York, a hashtag campaign to raise awareness on Twitter for the union, and an hour-long strike on Slack, a popular messaging app used internally by many newsrooms including Vox Media.

"Set yourself to away and mute your notifications for one hour, and change your status to include the voxunion emoji," organizers said. "Given how much time we all spend in Slack, this is kind of like holding up a sign. Digital media!"

Both management and organizers have telegraphed in recent days that they appear closer on a potential deal.

In December, publisher Melissa Bell said in an email to staff that she had "concerns about voluntarily recognizing the union, and about ensuring the fairness of the process as a whole". Management was also unsure why union organizers did not want the National Labor Relations Board to mediate union negotiations.

But on Tuesday, she indicated that management felt "very good" about recent meetings with union organizers.

Vox is the latest major digital media organization to consider unionizing.

In the last few years, employees at Vice, HuffPost, and Thrillist successfully unionized, while Gothamist and DNAinfo shut down after their editorial employees voted to unionize.

Other newsrooms have also faced headwinds when attempting to form a union.

Employees at The Los Angeles Times have been negotiating for months about forming a union to secure higher pay, better benefits, and protections against changes by their parent company, Tronc, but have faced harsh words from management.

Read the full Vox memo below:

Happy new year! We hope that you had a joyous holiday season with the people you love. Now that most of us are back on regular schedules, we wanted to update you on the status of our negotiations with management to achieve recognition for the Vox Media Union.

Our representatives from the Writers Guild of America, East, will meet with management's outside counsel on Friday, January 5. The purpose of that meeting is to discuss the scope of the bargaining unit that will ultimately comprise our union. The company has moved considerably toward voluntary recognition, and we are glad to be on the same page in that regard. However, we remain far apart on the full scope of the unit. We are committed to making sure as many people as possible get the protections of a union that a supermajority has already voted to form.

We want this issue resolved this week. To make sure that happens, we need to continue to push management to do the right thing, as we've done each step of the way.

On that front, the union will have several actions all happening on Thursday between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. ET. Please join however many of these work for you:

  • A Slack strike. Set yourself to away and mute your notifications for one hour, and change your status to include the :voxunion emoji. Given how much time we all spend in Slack, this is kind of like holding up a sign. Digital media!
  • A union lunch in New York, at Murphy's Tavern near the office.
  • A union lunch in D.C., at Nando's near the office.
  • A remote video meet-up on Zoom, so employees who aren't in either office can talk about the union drive and ask any questions.

We'll also be tweeting using #whyvoxunion. We encourage you to take to twitter to share your top reasons for supporting this union.

There will be happy hours in New York and D.C. next week, likely between Tuesday and Thursday, along with more remote meetings. We'll be in touch about those as soon as we figure out what works for as many of our coworkers as possible. Our hope is that those will be celebratory occasions. We are close to getting this phase done for each other.

Thanks for being great coworkers. Please don't hesitate to reach out to an organizing committee member or to leave any thought about the union in the #voxmedia-union-ama Slack room. Here's to a great 2018 at Vox Media.

The Vox Media Union Organizing Committee