Why is Wirecutter’s editorial staff forming a union?

Without a union in place, our employer has the legal right to change the conditions under which we work at any time, unilaterally. Forming a union is the only way to establish a legally binding contract that spells out our working conditions for all to see, and to which the company must adhere. With a union, we’ll have legal protections for our existing benefits and have the ability to work collectively with our colleagues to improve our working conditions. We have more leverage together than we do as individuals.

Wirecutter is a dream job for many of us, and we’re unionizing to protect our editorial integrity, our families’ security, and the trust of the readers we serve. We love Wirecutter, and are committed to working with management to make it the best place to work.

What are the issues?

We’re organizing to protect the things that have always made Wirecutter great: Our commitment to rigorous journalistic ethics and editorial independence in deciding what topics we cover, what picks we make, and what deals we share; our commitment to allowing our geographically and culturally diverse staff to work from (almost) anywhere; and our company-wide commitment to work-life balance.

We’re also organizing to solve issues getting in the way of us doing our best work for our readers. We seek transparent communication from leadership about strategy shifts and layoffs, and a seat at the table when these matters are under discussion. We seek to correct disparities in pay and to set clear, consistent overtime expectations and disciplinary procedures. We also seek to protect our benefits where they are strong, and improve them where they could be stronger with more affordable and comprehensive health insurance, increased parental leave, and vacation rollovers and payouts. We seek more opportunities for career development, and more resources for diversity training—we can’t make the best recommendations for most people if our staff doesn’t represent all people.

What happens next?

With the support of an overwhelming majority of our colleagues, we have requested voluntary recognition of the NewsGuild as our collective-bargaining representative. Certification grants us the legal right to negotiate a collective-bargaining agreement (a union contract) with management. We have requested voluntary recognition of our union, which can be accomplished through a simple card-check agreement, in which a neutral third party verifies that a majority of eligible staff members have signed union authorization cards.

Following certification, we will elect unit officers, who will serve as our bargaining-unit representatives, and appoint a bargaining committee. The bargaining-committee members will then send out a survey to the entire membership in order to get a comprehensive understanding of which issues matter the most to the newsroom. They will then work with our Guild representatives to draft contract proposals that address those issues. Once an agreement has been reached, the contract will be put to a vote by the membership, and a majority must vote to approve the contract.

Who is and isn’t eligible for the union?

All full-time and part-time editorial staffers of Wirecutter who are non-managerial and non-supervisory are eligible for the union. Unfortunately, independent contractors (1099) are not.

Do other publications have unions?

Many of the country’s most reputable news organizations are unionized, among them our parent company, The New York Times. Others include the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, the Associated Press, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as many digital media organizations, such as Slate, the Daily Beast, HuffPost, Vox Media, and Vice Media.

What are the benefits of joining the NewsGuild of New York?

The NewsGuild of New York is the largest union for news professionals in the country, representing nearly 3,000 journalists and media professionals across the country. The Guild has also had a productive, decades-long working relationship our parent company, The New York Times Company.

Will forming a union threaten Wirecutter’s finances?

Many of the workplace issues that we want to address—such as remote work protections, job security, diversity, editorial independence, transparency, and accountability—are not financial. The improvements in pay and benefits that we will negotiate at the bargaining table will be just that: a negotiation. If Wirecutter and The New York Times claim poverty in negotiations, they will be legally obligated to show us that they cannot afford the improvements we ask for. Ultimately, we’ll vote on a contract that we are all happy with, and we would never demand a contract that would threaten the financial stability of the company.

Can you be fired or retaliated against for supporting the organizing drive?

The National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to organize a union in their workplace, and it is illegal for an employer to retaliate against its employees for coming together to improve their working conditions. Wirecutter and The New York Times are barred from threatening employees or coercing them to oppose a union drive. Our union is serious about protecting our rights as workers, and we have been trained on what those rights are, including what to look out for throughout the course of the campaign.

Will this make the workplace more antagonistic?

Absolutely not. Having a union gives us a predictable framework for addressing issues with management when they arise so that disputes don’t turn into personal conflicts between managers and their subordinates. We all have different relationships with our managers—some good, some bad, some neutral. A union offers us opportunities to protect the positive aspects of the working conditions that our managers create, while giving us the power to address concerns collectively. A unionized workplace will ensure that all of Wirecutter’s editorial workers receive fair treatment, regardless of whether they are friendly with their managers.

What are membership dues?

Membership dues are 1.3846 percent of base pay, and are assessed post-tax. Dues are not collected until our first contract is ratified, and the NewsGuild does not have any initiation fees. The dues deductions will show up on our paycheck, much like the other taxes that are taken out. Dues support the work that the union does on our behalf, which is often costly. The amount paid in dues is small compared with the higher pay and benefits gained through collective bargaining.

What kinds of things will be negotiated into a contract?

This will be up to us as a group. Through the organizing process, we have been identifying issues that matter most to us at Wirecutter. Once our union is official, we will send out a bargaining survey to the full membership to determine what we want to prioritize in our contract. We are looking to negotiate over our core working conditions—our salaries, overtime expectations, benefits, and ability to work remotely—as well as issues such as diversity and editorial independence.

Will having a union prevent advocating for things like raises and promotions individually?

No. When we negotiate our contract, it will only set transparent salary minimums, not maximums. We’re free to negotiate above that directly with our managers. Guild representatives are here to help us advocate for ourselves in those negotiations.

Will an employment contract mean less flexibility in the workplace?

Union representation does not impose workplace rigidity, and we would never allow that. Management is required to maintain past practices related to our working conditions, and cannot unilaterally impose changes to those terms and conditions of employment. Our current benefits, including those that are unofficially a standard practice, will remain in place until we negotiate and ratify a contract. In the meantime, our working lives will very much stay the same (aside from being stronger and more unified!) as we work together to negotiate a contract.