Many editorial staff at BuzzFeed’s Toronto operation are now officially members of the Canadian Media Guild, CWA.You were one of the employees that kicked off this unionisation drive. What made you take that initiative?
I actually started exploring unionisation more than a year ago. I was inspired by seeing other union drives, like at Vice Canada, but I also just fundamentally believe organizing is a useful tool for any newsroom. We were unsure at the time but then after the round of layoffs in January at BuzzFeed we sort of collectively realised it was time to discuss organising again.
How did you convince other staff members to unionise?
Honestly, it wasn't very difficult, but we're a special place. We're a small, close-knit editorial staff that truly respects and trusts one another. We had some meetings and conversations and things were quick to come together. Basically, we just trusted that we had each other's backs and that we were all doing this for the right reasons.
What challenges did you meet?
A lot of the work in doing this was coordinating with our counterparts in the US newsroom. That was more of a logistic challenge, making sure we were doing things in tandem, which was made more difficult by a leak to the media in New York.
Honestly, I anticipate the bargaining process being more challenging than anything we've faced so far, but I'm hopeful that BuzzFeed will prove me wrong and we'll reach an agreement quickly.
What are the next steps?
The next step is actually bargaining for our collective agreement. We'll be delivering notice that we want to start the process any day now, then from there we'll start negotiations.
Any tips you would like to share with other journalists in digital media about setting up a union?
Don't be afraid! We've all heard anti-union rhetoric here and there, and it's very easy to think it's too risky or not the right time. But it's always a good time to secure your working conditions. You will always have more power when you band together.