BuzzFeed seems to be treating its workers like an ostrich avoiding its prey: by sticking its head in the sand. After BuzzFeed News employees announced their plans to unionize, the company has allegedly avoided the subject at all costs.
According to a series of tweets from the BuzzFeed News Union, CEO Jonah Peretti, editor in chief Ben Smith, and BuzzFeed’s management repeatedly refused to meet with the union to hash things out. They even allegedly scheduled a meeting at the News Guild’s offices only to inform people five minutes after the scheduled time that they actually weren’t going to show up.
We’ve repeatedly asked @peretti and @BuzzFeedBen to join us in these negotiations and take an interest in what their employees are fighting for. They’ve declined our invitations. But we must be clear: They have the power to recognize our union now.
— BuzzFeed News Union (@bfnewsunion) April 3, 2019
This alleged repeated refusal to even discuss the union has caught the attention of New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. On Thursday, he tweeted a clear message of support:
To the union: This city stands with you.
To the management: Come. To. The. Table.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 4, 2019
BuzzFeed’s PR even had a quippy response for this, telling the Daily Beast “[t]his process is not going to benefit from the involvement of a deeply unpopular mayor who has expressed an open disdain for journalists during his time in office.” It’s a snarky retort, but one I imagine isn’t especially reassuring to BuzzFeed News employees.
There’s a funny irony to de Blasio’s involvement. While it’s nice that he’s exhibiting support for a local unionization effort, the mayor didn’t seem to take such a strong stance when Amazon was planning to build a new headquarters in his city. At the time, many people called for local leaders to support unionization efforts at the online retail giant. Instead, politicians like de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo fawned over the company, only to see the now-abandoned deal dissolve before their eyes.
Perhaps in the short time since Amazon pulled out of New York, de Blasio has gained a new level of sympathy for New York workers and tech exploitation. And if that’s the truth, I say why stop with BuzzFeed, Bill? Let the other big guys know you mean business.
Disclosure: The Fast Company editorial staff is represented by the Writers Guild of America-East