Sports Unions Join The Labor Fight At Vox

All four professional league unions have voiced their support.

On November 17, staffers at Vox Media announced plans to unionize. Should the effort prove successful, Vox’s entire roster of sites, including Curbed, Eater, Polygon, Racked, Recode, SB Nation, and The Verge, would join the Writer’s Guild of America East, which boasts digital media publications such as Gizmodo Media Group, HuffPost, and Vice among its ranks.

“There is no better way to cultivate that innovation, and champion our values, than to unionize,” the nascent Vox Union said in a statement published on its website. “An empowered team is an ambitious team, and the greater transparency and collaboration offered by a union will allow us to thrive and take risks in an ever-changing industry.”

But since the unionization drive was made public, Vox Media itself has given no indication that it will formally recognize the union and recent attempts to organize by other digital media properties have been fraught, to say the least. In October, DNAinfo and Gothamist successfully formed a union and joined WGA East. One week later, Joe Ricketts, a staunch anti-union billionaire who bought both sites nine months ago, shuttered the entire operation, in what was, by all accounts, a retaliatory strike. Initially, he erased both sites’ archives, depriving out-of-work reporters from using their clips to secure a job. (After an online outcry, the archives were restored.)

After the Los Angeles Times announced a unionization drive, it faced its own pushback from management. Splinter got its hands on a series of anti-union flyers that Tronc, the media conglomerate that owns the Times, planned to distribute, all of which pushed the notion that staffers would be far better off without organized labor negotiating on their behalf.

But the Vox Union, which has set up a dedicated Twitter account to help distribute its message, received an unexpected signal boost from all four major sports league unions. The four unions representing pro baseball, basketball, football, and hockey players all called on management to formally recognize the union:

The NFLPA and the NHLPA refrained from tweeting but both sent letters of support.

The NBPA did not respond to a request for comment, but they have frequently used their social media account to support union activities both in and outside the United States:

Similarly, when NBA players were locked out in 2011, the NFLPA expressed solidarity:

GOOD Sports spoke with a representative of MLB Players Association who said that the union will often back organizing efforts in other industries. As an example, he cited in incident in 2016 in which executive director, Tony Clark, visited a plant and lent support to VF Majestic’s union employees, just as it seemed as if the union company would lose out on the contract to supply all MLB teams with uniforms.

"We are proud of the players association's backing,” one employee said. “They supported our contract fights in the past, including our most recent one in 2016… It was great to hear that the players really cared about our fight to save our jobs."

In the end, MLB’s new suppliers, Under Armour and Fanatics, announced that they would not outsource the labor, saving the jobs of hundreds of employees.

With regards to the Vox Union, the MLB Players Association’s position is clear. “We support the rights of all workers to unionize,” the spokesman said

Screenshot via (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

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