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The Wing says it will change non-disparagement language in its membership agreement

The Wing says it will change non-disparagement language in its membership agreement
[Photo: Kristina Flour/Unsplash]

Can you criticize The Wing? A newsletter that covers media industry news has drawn attention to a little talked about clause buried in the membership agreement for coworking space The Wing, which seems to indicate the answer is no:

You shall, during and after the Membership Term, refrain from making any statements or comments of a defamatory or disparaging nature to any third party (including via your social media channels) regarding the Company or any of the Company’s officers, directors, employees, personnel, agents, policies, services or products or other members, other than to comply with law.

The organization that published this finding, Study Hall, is a network for freelance media professionals that also runs an industry newsletter. In brief, The Wing’s clause says members can’t say (or tweet) bad things about the company, anyone who works for the company, or any of its products, services, or policies. It also includes “other members” in that list. That final bit, members, is the reason this clause is included at all, according to representatives for The Wing.

“This clause originally came from us wanting to create a safe space for our members and protect their privacy, considering that The Wing has members with public profiles–and this language was initially intended to protect those members from feeling like others might disparage them or speak about private things they observed,” a representative for The Wing says. “It has never been enforced, but we are reviewing it to see if it can be more clear.”

The company now plans to make changes to its membership agreement, in light of the discussion that’s arisen around it. It is strange language to include in a membership agreement; such a clause is far more typical in an employment contract. But whether or not the clause has been enforced to date has little bearing on whether or not members have taken the language to heart.

Since its debut in 2016, the members-only, women-focused space The Wing has enjoyed a lot of glowing press coverage. The biggest complaint has been the price, which runs from $2,350 annually for access to a single location, to $2,700 annually for access to all locations. Critics argue that hefty price tag makes membership exclusive to certain income brackets–as well as that The Wing has been riding on the coattails of feminism for capitalist gain.

But The Wing says it has stayed above the fray by being responsive to its members. “We actively encourage and welcome candid feedback from our members–it has helped us build and expand our business. We wouldn’t be where we are today without it,” the representative says.

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