WGA East executive director Lowell Peterson told Variety that the five-month-old contract that the guild negotiated with Gawker Media earlier this year remains in effect at the remaining Gawker sites, which include Deadspin, Gizmodo, Jalopnik, Jezebel, Kotaku, and Lifehacker. The contract — the first WGA deal covering digital employees — currently covers about 90 employees.
Univision recently won an auction to buy the Gawker assets for $135 million and has agreed to continue the provisions of the WGA East contract. Two days later, the media-gossip blog Gawker announced it would close down operations this week while the other sites remained live.
“Univision has been very welcoming to the Gawker employees,” Peterson said. “I think it’s a testimony to the power of the collective bargaining agreement.”
Hamilton Nolan, who led the union drive at Gawker Media and is now writing for Deadspin, said he was pleased that Univision had agreed to continue operating the sites under the guild contract at the urging of the WGA East and Gawker Media.
“There’s a continuity for the employees with the same healthcare, benefits, and salary structures,” Nolan said. “It also really shows the value of having a union contract. Amid all the uncertainty in this business, it’s something everyone should look at.”
The disappearance of the Gawker site is the culmination of long battles with wrestler Hulk Hogan and Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel. Hogan had won a $140 million judgement in March against Gawker Media, its founder Nick Denton, and one of its editors over Gawker’s publication of a sex tape featuring Hogan, whose suit was funded by Thiel.
On March 1, the WGA East announced that Gawker staffers had ratified the first contract by an 88-2 margin. The guild also unionized writers and producers last year at the Huffington Post, Vice, Salon, and ThinkProgress, but Gawker was the first with a union contract.
The staffs at Vice and ThinkProgress have also subsequently ratified WGA East contracts and negotiations on a deal at Huffington Post are ongoing, according to Peterson. Additionally, the guild is continuing to seek organization of other digital sites, but will keep those efforts under wraps until staffers are ready to announce their support for unionization.