“These are professional-class jobs paying working-class wages, and these people have working-class worries about being downsized, laid off, cast aside in a market that is really stripped down.”
In January 2015, The Washington Post’s labor reporter at the time, Lydia DePillis, wrote a story called “Why Internet journalists don’t organize.” DePillis observed that many writers were individualistic and had “built personal brands” and therefore apparently had scant interest in unions and collective action. One employee she interviewed said digital media workers were “half-looking to jump elsewhere,” so why fight to have a union if you’re not going to stick around? An editor told DePillis that despite the industry’s low salaries and instability, digital journalists were “SO unprepared for anything like union organizing…They all went to good schools, and very few of them seem to have any experience with labor in the real workforce.”
Two months later, Hamilton Nolan, a senior writer at Gawker, was talking with an organizer from the Writers Guild of America, East, a union largely of film and television writers, when the organizer told him that workers at one news website she hoped to unionize seemed scared of retaliation if they pushed for a union. Nolan surprised her by saying why not try to unionize his company, Gawker Media, which included Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo, and Jalopnik. Soon Nolan was chatting up his coworkers, and within three weeks, nearly 40 Gawker workers met one afternoon at Writers Guild headquarters to discuss unionization.
The next day, Nolan posted a piece on Gawker with the headline “Why We’ve Decided to Organize.” While noting that Gawker was “a very good place to work,” Nolan wrote, “Every workplace could use a union. A union is the only real mechanism that exists to represent the interests of employees in a company.”