US: IFJ solidarity with digital media workers fighting closures
Update 14.11.2017The IFJ has backed calls by digital media workers in the US to unionise, as writers and their supporters rallied as part of an ongoing fight against the closure of sites DNAinfo and Gothamist. On 13 November, an agreement included substantial gains beyond the initial offer made by management. More than 300 people joined writers from the sites, members of the Writers Guild Of America, East, along with elected officials, from IFJ affiliates, including SAG-AFTRA at a rally at New York’s City Hall Park to support the fight by unionized editorial employee against the closures. On 2 November, the publications’ owner – right-wing billionaire Joe Ricketts – announced that he had shut down the popular local news sites and bragged that the employees were to blame for his decision because they exercised their right to unionize. At the rally, the message sent from writers from DNAinfo and Gothamist was loud and clear: “Organize. Don’t let the billionaires scare you.” Speaker after speaker eviscerated Ricketts for his union-busting actions and using his power to silence the important work local reporters do to hold people in power accountable. IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “We stand in solidarity with editorial workers from DNAinfo and Gothamist. Joe Ricketts actions are an affront to media freedom, undermine the public’s right to know and are in breach of the fundamental human right to freedom of association. “Such crude anti-union tactics do not scare workers – they simply make them more determined to organize for decent working conditions, fair labour contracts and professional standards”. On 13 November, the DNAinfo/Gothamist bargaining committee, working with the Writers Guild of America, East (WGAE),announced they had negotiated an agreement including substantial gains beyond the initial offer made by management. Namely: - Each employee will receive three months of full pay and benefits, even if they obtain other employment. - At the end of that period, each employee will receive four weeks’ severance pay. - Each employee has the right to use their own work, including work that was already published by DNAinfo or Gothamist, and to create new works derived from what they did for the publication. - No employee will be required to sign a non-disparagement provision. - The company has confirmed in writing that it will not remain in business or create any neighborhood news media site for at least two years; any asset sale must be to a third party, conducted at arm’s length.