By Mike Elk
Earlier today, the 130 editorial employees of Law360 opted to join the New York NewsGuild. According to the NewsGuild, “an overwhelming majority” of newsroom employees opted to join the Guild. Law360, owned by the LexisNexis Group, is one of the fastest legal news organizations in the country.
The victory at Law360 may open the floodgates to even more organizing at mainstream digital media outlets and trade publication. The workers at Law360 said that they opted to join the union because they were upset about being overworked and a lack of overtime.
In a statement released by the organizing committee, the workers said that they chose to unionize because:
Law360 has become an indispensable news source for the legal and business communities, and we, the journalists, are proud of the instrumental role we’ve played in driving the company’s constant and remarkable growth.
However, this success has not led to better working conditions for those in the newsroom, and the editorial staff of Law360 believe the time has come to unite and ensure that our voices are heard.
Together, Law360’s talented pool of reporters, copy editors, news assistants, third-party content editors and graphics editors are seeking reasonable compensation and overtime pay. We also stand against unilateral changes to our healthcare and other benefits, a mercurial management style, and an overwhelming quota-based workload that leads to a poor work-life balance and questionable editorial priorities.
That’s why Law360’s editorial workers are seeking to unionize with the NewsGuild of New York. We believe collective bargaining is the most effective way to sustain a company where journalists can focus on quality reporting, confident that their interests are adequately represented.
The vast majority of Law360’s editorial staff from around the country support this effort to address our concerns collectively. We ask management to recognize this union and engage with us in constructive and amicable negotiations.
The win at Law360 is a major victory for unions attempting to unionize workers and an indication that the digital media unionization movement is growing.
Last year, a record number of seven digital media organizations were unionized in one summer alone. The Writers Guild of America East successfully unionized workers at The Huffington Post, Vice, Gawker, Salon, and Think Progress. The NewsGuild successfully organized workers at The Guardian and Al Jazeera America, but lost the first round of bitterly fought union drive at POLITICO.
At the time, the victories at these outlets were considered low-hanging fruit as they were left-leaning. If management at these outlets openly attempted to bust union drives, it could have led to these publications losing readers.
With workers having already successfully won first contracts at Vice and Gawker, perhaps a second wave of digital media unionization is about to begin at more mainstream media outlets. However, workers at those publications face far steeper odds, as the outlets tend to be owned by corporations that have deeper pockets and are less worried about the backlash of left-leaning readers.
In recent months, though, the NewsGuild has been making inroads at these digital media outlets. Last month, the NewsGuild won a union election 16-1 at the Graham-Family-owned Foreign Policy Magazine and this month have continued building on that success by bringing in the 130 editorial employees at Law360.
Both the NewsGuild and Writers Guild of America East are actively trying to organize at other outlets.
(Full Disclosure: Payday’s Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk is a rank-and-file member of the Washington Baltimore NewsGuild, and used his settlement from being illegally fired at POLITICO to start Payday Report.)