BuzzFeed Canada staff file to unionize

2019.02.12 | NEWS RELEASE

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TORONTO – Canadian staff at digital media company BuzzFeed have officially filed for union certification.

The Canadian Media Guild (CMG), media union CWA Canada’s biggest local, is filing with the Ontario Labour Relations Board and the Canada Industrial Relations Board after a majority of the 10 BuzzFeed staff in Toronto signed union cards.

The filing comes in concert with similar actions by BuzzFeed workers in the United States and Germany. It is part of a wave of recent unionization in the media industry. VICE Canada staff joined CMG and CWA Canada in 2016 and secured their first contract in 2017.

In a mission statement, BuzzFeed Canada staff said they want to secure their working conditions and improve transparency through collective bargaining: “The ongoing volatility of the industry makes it necessary for workers to have a voice.”

“Our move to unionize is not born from a lack of trust in BuzzFeed’s leadership, but rather as a move to build a sustainable relationship that’s mutually beneficial,” it states. “We believe that collective bargaining is the best means to achieve that goal.”

CWA Canada President Martin O’Hanlon, a veteran journalist, said the union drive is about protecting quality jobs and journalism – and about fairness.

“We all want BuzzFeed to succeed; that’s good for everyone. We think the best way to make that happen is by treating workers as respected professionals and giving them a real voice in the workplace with the power to negotiate wages and working conditions.”

CMG President Kamala Rao noted that BuzzFeed workers have already mobilized and are poised to build on those efforts.

“Workers at BuzzFeed have demonstrated the impact of joining together publicly to defend each other, including to protect employees’ deferred earnings, like paid time off. A negotiated collective agreement will further codify such rights,” Rao said. “We are delighted to welcome fellow media workers from BuzzFeed in Canada into the Canadian Media Guild.”

CWA Canada is the country’s only all-media union, representing media workers coast to coast, including over 5,000 members of the Canadian Media Guild at the CBC, The Canadian Press, Thomson Reuters, VICE Canada, and other media outlets.

Statement By Workers At BuzzFeed Canada:

Why BuzzFeed Canada Is Unionizing

TORONTO — In the nearly four years since the BuzzFeed Canada office opened, our reporters, editors, producers, quiz-makers, sales team, and office dogs have enriched the media landscape beyond the country’s borders. Now, the majority of our 10 staff have signed union cards to join the Canadian Media Guild, a local of CWA Canada.

Our workforce may be small, but it’s mighty. BuzzFeed staff in Canada have punched above our weight, creating top-ranking entertainment content, compelling news, and founding BuzzFeed’s debunking bureau to tackle the very real threat of misinformation. Our sales team has proven time and again that a small group of dedicated workers can do wonders.

But being isolated from the New York City mothership while working alongside it has had its issues. As revealed in the recent round of layoffs, there is a lack of uniform severance and communication standards across the company. We also have serious concerns regarding contract and freelance work, as well as equal distribution of benefits. We are striving to improve transparency, equity, diversity, and working conditions across the company.

Just this year, some 2,000 media workers lost their jobs in the U.S. and those cuts have affected Canada as well. Statistics Canada data shows there are fewer journalists in the country now than there were 15 years ago. The ongoing volatility of the industry makes it necessary that workers have a voice. This effort is in solidarity with our colleagues in the U.S. and Germany.

Our move to unionize is not born from a lack of trust in BuzzFeed’s leadership, but rather as a move to build a sustainable relationship that’s mutually beneficial. We believe that collective bargaining is the best means to achieve that goal. It’s our hope that management shares this belief and recognizes our union in good faith.

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