After a crushing round of layoffs that sent shockwaves through the newsroom, BuzzFeed’s editorial staff announced on Tuesday that they have formed a union to grapple with the threats looming over the media industry.
Employees have informed BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith of their intentions, according to the NewsGuild of New York — the union with which BuzzFeed is organizing. NewsGuild said that more than 90% of “eligible editorial employees signed on to the union effort.”
In a statement Tuesday, Smith said, “We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union.”
BuzzFeed, once a darling in the digital media space, laid off 15% of its workforce last month. Employees took to Medium to write an open letter to the company’s leadership team to express anger over BuzzFeed’s decision not to pay laid-off staffers for earned paid time off. CEO Jonah Peretti eventually relented after the backlash.
However, it appears that the effort to unionize started before the latest round of cuts, with the NewsGuild calling it a “months long organizing drive.” Included in the demands are PTO payouts, reasonable severance and due process for termination — a list that shows that staffers are bracing for more turmoil.