Commentary

Vox Media Workers Stage 1-Hour Walkout to Press Demands

Editorial and video employees at Vox Media last week staged a one-hour walkout to protest the company’s policies on wages, rates and severance.

The Vox Media Union, an affiliate of Writers Guild of America, organized the protest as its bargaining committee issued a statement of demands. The union is seeking wage minimums and guaranteed raises that reflect rising living expenses, longer severance and a share of revenue from licensing content to third parties like Netflix.

The union also demanded a stronger commitment to management diversity, a parental leave policy that doesn’t have a waiting period for new hires and protection against outsourcing work to non-union subcontractors.

The Vox Media Union’s Twitter account showed pictures from the walkout, including a photo of about a dozen employees eating lunch.

That picture led Joshua Benton, director of the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, to crack: “One piece of friendly advice from a former Guild member: If you want to firmly distinguish a one-hour 1 p.m. walkout from a lunch break, maybe don’t tweet out photos of the chicken satay.”

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Vox Media responded to the unionization of its editorial workforce by shifting its hiring to contract, part-time and freelance workers, according to an analysis of job listings by Joshua Fruhlinger at Thinknum.

The data show that Vox listed 102 full-time job openings two that were part-time, contract or freelance on November 16, 2017, the day before unionization. Today, the listings show 57 full-time positions and 25 part-time or contract workers.

Melissa Bell, publisher of Vox Media, responded to his analysis with a request for a correction, saying “an analysis solely based on a scraping of open roles on our website is not a sufficient measurement of full-time hires versus part-time and/or contractor roles."

She also said Vox hired more than 150 full-time employees in 2018 and expects to hire about the same number this year.

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