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Writers Guild Launches Unionizing Drive at Gawker Media

The Writers Guild of America East has launched a unionization effort at Gawker Media,  which operates news and niche sites Gawker, Deadspin, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, io9, Kotaku, Jalopnik and Jezebel.

Reps of the guild met Wednesday with Gawker employees.

Gawker staffer Hamilton Nolan explained the reasons behind the effort. He acknowleged that Gawker is a good place to work but added, “Every workplace could use a union. A union is the only real mechanism that exists to represent the interests of employees in a company. A union is also the only real mechanism that enables employees to join together to bargain collectively, rather than as a bunch of separate, powerless entities. This is useful in good times (which our company enjoys now), and even more in bad times (which will inevitably come).”

Lowell Peterson, exec director of the WGA East, issued a statement on Friday.

“The Writers Guild of America East has a long history of representing writers and others in broadcast news, and we have been at the forefront of organizing digital media,” said Peterson. “We welcome the opportunity to work with the writers at Gawker and its affiliated websites – men and women who are dedicated to crafting stories that elucidate and entertain. Like all professional journalists and storytellers, these writers deserve a voice on the job.”

Since 2009, WGA East has focused most of its organizing efforts in nonfiction television. It has collective bargaining agreements with three production companies — Sharp Entertainment, Optomen Prods. and Lion TV — and is negotiating with ITV and Original Media.

The guild was certified by the National Labor Relations Board last month as a collective bargaining representative for freelance producers and associate producers at Jane Street Entertainment.

“The way people write, produce, distribute and consume news and information is changing in fundamental ways,” Peterson said. “The WGAE knows the union and its members must be active, alert and creative in responding to (and shaping) this transformation. Gawker has long stood as a leader in digital media thanks to the skills, dedication and foresight of its staff, who have decided to take an active role in building solid, sustainable careers.

UPDATE, 1:56 p.m. PDT — Gawker Media executive editor Tommy Craggs told Variety: “As I’ve said elsewhere, my pro-labor sympathies are no secret around here. It’s a cause I support both in the abstract, for sentimental and philosophical reasons, and in the particular.”

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