Commentary

Hearst Workers Vote To Unionize As 'WaPo' Addresses Pay Disparities

Publishers may not relish the idea of seeing their employees assert their collective bargaining power by voting to form a union, but greater economic insecurities have changed the mood in New York's media circles.

Also, workers are becoming more assertive about social issues, such as wage disparities between men and women, as well as different racial groups.

Employees at publishing giant Hearst Magazines this week voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East, adding more than 500 workers to its membership. The vote was significant, given Hearst's scale, which includes 24 print and online publications, such as Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Elle, Esquire, Good Housekeeping, Harper's Bazaar, Men's Health, The Oprah Magazine and Popular Mechanics.
“Hearst’s union drive comes as the media industry continues to consolidate, as companies become platform-agnostic and offer content on paper, over the airwaves, and online," Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGAE, said in a statement posted to its website.
WGAE represents 6,000 workers, including employees of newsrooms at Fast Company, Gizmodo, HuffPost, MTV News, Refinery29, Salon, Slate, Talking Points Memo, Thrillist, Vice and Vox Media.

In addition to the WGAE, the News Guild of New York also represents many newsroom employees as part of the Communications Workers of America. The guild has worked to boost membership amid steady job cuts and the closure of print titles, and represents workers at New York magazine, The New York Times, The New Yorker, PC Mag and People, among others. Its membership has expanded beyond print to include employees of digital newsrooms at BuzzFeed News, The Daily Beast, Mashable and Quartz.
Unionization won't help to reverse the steady decline in readership and ad revenue that many publishers have seen as audiences migrate to digital media, but it may address pay disparities among workers who share that information with their unions as part of their collective bargaining.
The News Guild published a study of pay differences among its members at The Washington Post and found the biggest differences between salaries for men and women among workers under age 40. Among younger workers, the median salary for men was $95,890, compared with $84,030 for women.
That pay disparity narrowed to 1.5% for workers over age 40, with men earnings $127,765, compared with $126,000 for women.
In a statement to the Poynter Institute, The Washington Post described the News Guild's analysis as "seriously flawed."

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Considering the median household income in Washington, D.C., is about $82,000 for two earners, the WaPo's staff appear to be better paid than most people in the metropolitan area.

That's fine, considering that journalism requires specialized skills and a good education -- there are plenty of other places that people can work. However, it also supports the idea that newsrooms are out of touch with the travails of lower-income communities that need better representation in the media.
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