Employees of MSNBC, a 24-hour cable news channel with a slate of prominent eclectic anchors, said Thursday they plan to form a union representing about 315 workers, including producers, bookers, writers and fact checkers.
The announcement is the latest example of a labor rights movement that has affected major media organizations, as print, digital and broadcast journalists seek to unionize amid an uncertain outlook for their industry. Recently, employees the Atlantic, Daily News Along with New York and Insider tech staff in the new york timeshas announced its intention to form a union.
The MSNBC bargaining unit will be represented by the Writers Guild of America, East, which stated that most of the network’s employees had signed a letter calling for voluntary recognition of a union. The Writers Guild represents a number of news and entertainment outlets, including ABC News and CBS News, whose involvement dates back to the Guild’s beginnings in 1954.
MSNBC’s management was notified of the effort by its employees on Thursday afternoon. “We look forward to continuing the type of direct, open and honest communication that has already resulted in meaningful change to the network,” the network’s president, Rashida Jones, said in a statement.
In a follow-up memo to employees, Ms Jones said the network would request a formal vote on unionization by employees rather than voluntarily recognizing the new union. “I respect the right of our employees to decide whether they want to be represented by a union, and I believe that our employees will be able to make such important decisions through a standard election process. Should be,” she wrote. “It is important to give everyone who will be given the opportunity to understand what it will mean before making their choice.”
The Writers Guild objected to the need for a formal vote. “MSNBC needs to adhere to its own progressive principles and respect the decision by its editorial staff to unionize,” Guild Executive Director Lowell Peterson said in a statement late Thursday.
Digital Journalist at NBC News, a corporate sibling of MSNBC, in 2019 federated with the Newsguild of New York, which also represents journalists at The Times. He has not yet signed a contract with NBC.
“We as journalists believe that democracy works as a nation, state, country, city or workplace; Things work better when policies are created with input from people,” said Andrew Joyce, a segment producer for “The Rachel Meadow Show,” who helped lead MSNBC’s organizing effort.
The potential new union will also include activists from “The Choice,” a digital news and commentary service available on NBC’s streaming network, Peacock.
In a message on Thursday, the MSNBC bargaining unit wrote, “We stand up for each other and for our work – because that’s what we are.” It was a play on a marketing campaign by NBC News and MSNBC in which anchors and reporters explained their commitment to news with the slogan “This is us”.
Ms. Jones, who debuted as the network’s president this year, is the first black woman to run one of the three major cable news networks. Stephanie Brumsey, a segment producer on the weekend show “The Cross Connection”, said before Ms Jones’ follow-up memo that she was “very hopeful” that the new leadership would voluntarily recognize the union. “It’s not the old guard that’s out there,” she said.