“Fusion has produced an impressive body of work about how the right to organize is critical for American workers. It’s time we practice what we preach,” states an open letter drafted by the Fusion Union Organizing Committee.
A majority of editorial employees from Univision-owned Fusion have signed union cards indicating they want the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE) to represent about 75 company staffers before management as a collective bargaining unit.
Those staffers include content producers for Fusion cable and digital platforms. Most of the unit employees are based in New York, but others in different locations would also be covered.
“The employees at Fusion’s digital operation want a voice in how they do their work and in the conditions of work,” Lowell Peterson, Executive Director of the WGAE, tells Media Moves via email.
“We started meeting with them months ago, before the Gawker Media acquisition. The organizing committee has identified a number of concrete issues they want to address at the bargaining table.”
Peterson says support of the unionizing effort is strong among Fusion employees, many of whom are working with the Guild to do outreach to the entire editorial staff.
The unionizing staffers are seeking transparency in the company’s compensation policy that includes salary minimums for all positions and a standard for raises, employee advancement opportunities and access to programs to build a sustainable career. They also want editorial freedom and improved communication about changes in workers’ roles, responsibilities and hours.
“At this point management seems to want to take a rigid anti-union position, straight from the union-busters’ playbook. This directly contradicts Fusion’s progressive principles,” says Peterson. “The employees have the right to unionize, and we are confident we will succeed; opposing this process would put Fusion management on the wrong side of history.”
Responding to the unionizing effort, Fusion sent Media Moves the following statement: “The company is dedicated to providing an environment where all of its employees can thrive. We respect the right of our employees to choose whether to unionize and will be discussing this important decision directly with them.”
In an email signed by Fusion execs Boris Gartner and Daniel Eilemberg, they tell staff they’ll be sharing information and encourage employees to “investigate and ask questions” to get “a complete picture on what Guild representation would mean. At the end of that process, we think you will agree that Guild representation would not be beneficial for you or FUSION.”
The Guild and the Fusion Organizing Committee this week plan to petition Fusion management to voluntarily recognize the union.
“If the company refuses, we will keep the pressure on,” states Peterson. “Ultimately we could file for an election at the National Labor Relations Board – but forcing this is inconsistent with the company’s self-proclaimed progressivism.”
Below is the full letter of the Fusion Union Organizing Committee and their reasons for wanting to unionize, as well as the Fusion management email.
Fusion’s mission statement says, “We champion a young, diverse, and inclusive America from the inside out.” We are incredibly proud of the work we’ve done as individuals and as a publication in pursuit of that mission. That’s why we, collectively, would like a seat at the table in charting the future direction of Fusion and our role within the organization. Because we deeply believe in this mission and the ideas espoused in our inclusive body of work, we decided to organize a union with the Writers Guild of America, East.
Fusion has produced an impressive body of work about how the right to organize is critical for American workers. It’s time we practice what we preach. It’s important that this process is transparent and democratic, and we want anyone involved to be able to participate in the conversation about unionizing. This is just the beginning of that process and so to begin the public conversation, here are some of the reasons why we are unionizing.
Compensation & Pay: We seek to establish an equitable and transparent compensation policy, including salary minimums for all positions and a standard for raises.
Newsroom Communication & Transparency: In the world of digital journalism, job responsibilities can sometimes change very quickly. We are all aware that news relevant to our audience sometimes happens after hours or over the weekend, and we’re eager to make sure we’re covering it well. However, it is important to clearly communicate shifts in editorial structure, priorities, and individual responsibilities.
Establishing Standards for Hiring, Firing and Disciplinary Actions: We should have clear standards and procedures in place for judging performance. Negotiating a union contract is a way to set and enforce clear standards, as well as a way to avoid inequitable disciplinary procedures or terminations without just cause.
Diversity: It’s clear this is an area our company performs better in than most, but we want to formally preserve Fusion’s commitment to diverse hires. We would like to explore clear and distinct processes by which our company seeks to increase and maintain the diversity of its employees and ensure more opportunities for women and people of color to advance within the company.
Employee advancement: We seek a clear process by which an employee can begin on the path to advancement. We also seek to establish regular training programs whereby employees can learn new skills and share their own institutional knowledge with each other.
Editorial Freedom and Independence: We think that Fusion can be of the greatest service to its audience when journalists have freedom to pursue stories without fear of undue influence, intervention, or retaliation. We seek to establish clear policies on discipline and termination, as well as create mechanisms for staff to participate in crafting editorial policy.
Sustainable Career Paths: We seek to negotiate a contract that gives Fusion employees access to programs to build a sustainable career, such as but not limited to supportive family leave policies, protecting paid time-off policies and preserving and protecting benefits like healthcare and retirement.
Next Steps: We have formed an organizing committee to work on building our union. You are encouraged to join with us. If you are supportive of the union and would like to be a part of the process, it is important that you sign your union card.
The Fusion Union Organizing Committee
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Team Fusion
Date: Wed, Oct 5, 2016 at 5:16 PM
Subject: Guild Representation
To: Fusion All
Hi all —
Today FUSION became aware that a group of employees is seeking to have the Writers Guild represent FUSION employees.
As an organization rooted in journalism, we believe in democratic choice made by a well-informed electorate. We feel it is important that all employees who would be affected have the opportunity to hear FUSION’s perspective on the issue of union representation so that they can make an educated, personal decision from the privacy of a voting booth. We’ll be sharing information directly with you and encouraging you to investigate and ask questions so that you have a complete picture on what Guild representation would mean. At the end of that process, we think you will agree that Guild representation would not be beneficial for you or FUSION.
While you may be considering the question of representation, we want to clear up a misconception regarding the ability for some employees to opt out if they are not interested in being a part of the Guild. You should know that if the Guild obtains the right to represent a group of FUSION employees, by law all employees in that group will be represented. For this reason, it is critical for all employees to participate in this decision-making process.
In the meantime if you have any questions you can reach out directly to us as always* or you can submit a question anonymously here and we will get back to the broader group with responses (you will need your fusion.net email address to access the site so we know it is an employee question, but all submissions will be anonymous).
We will be coming to meet with you in person soon to answer additional questions you might have. We’ll be back in touch on timing once Hurricane Matthew passes.
– Boris & Danny
* Emails and phone numbers redacted from the email