In the footsteps of last month’s union election at Gawker, an electronic news site, it has now been reported that all 26 of the writers and editors of San Francisco-based at Salon, another on line news organization, have served the publication with a letter announcing that each of them has designated the News Guild, which until April of this year was known as the Newspaper Guild, as their collective bargaining representative.
Lowell Peterson the union’s Executive Director commented that the unionization campaigns at Salon and Gawker and a part of the Guild’s broader efforts to represent electronic and new media employees. The union’s letter to Salon request for recognition explained the employee’s reasons for seeking union representation. He wrote that while the writers and editors are “pleased to be working for Salon.com,” their goals are the traditional ones – a desire to improve wages, benefits and other working conditions and a desire for a “voice on the job.” He continued that “I don’t think it’s just one specific issue,” but that “they do understand the value of having a collective voice and they do have concerns.”
Indeed, at the time of the Gawker election in June, Guild President Bernie Lunzer, in an extensive interview with the Washington Post referred to the Gawker vote as a “harbinger” of things to come. Ironically, several months earlier, the Washington Post had published a lengthy article entitled Why Internet Journalists Don’t Organize that opined on what were seen then as the many reasons that employees in electronic media and related areas were not interested in union representation and could not be successfully organized. Ironically that article, which focused on the efforts of a staunch union advocate who had been hired at Politico.com and was then trying to organize his co-workers from within, quite possibly as a “salt” who took the job with that goal in mind, made clear that this industry had been targeted and that the Guild was working to adapt its message and strategies to appeal to a new generation of workers who have positive attitudes towards unions and their messages.
While Salon’s leadership has not yet publicly indicated whether they will agree to recognize the Guild based on its petition signed by its workforce, will seek an election, either a private election such as Gawker and the Guild agreed upon or one conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, these developments are further reminder that unions are not “dead” and that in fact many are becoming much more adapt at focusing their messages and techniques to appeal to a new generation of workers and the methods of communicating and organizing sub rosa and out of the view of employers.
Coupled with the labor movement’s interest and efforts to pursue employees in high technology and related fields employers would be well served to assess their organizations and their vulnerability to these new age organizing efforts.