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Gawker Staff Ratifies First Digital Media Contract for Writers Guild

Gawker’s editorial staff has ratified the first digital media contract negotiated by representatives at the Writers Guild of America East.

The WGA East said Gawker’s 99-member bargaining unit approved the contract by an overwhelming margin. The guild touted the contract as a milestone in its efforts to organize digital media workers to join the labor movement around the world.

The vote was 88-2, according to Gawker.

“The union was able to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement founded on the principles of consistency and transparency,” said Lowell Peterson, WGA East executive director. “This agreement demonstrates that unionization gives digital media employees a real and effective voice in decisions that affect their careers.”

Gawker and WGA East announced a three-year tentative agreement on Monday.

It sets a minimum annual salary of $50,000; provides for 3% yearly raises for staff members; severance payments of two weeks for every year of service; and locks in current health and 401k plans. It also provides for at-will employment, which the company said called “a noteworthy departure from traditional union contracts, which often limit management’s ability to respond to market conditions.”

The Gawker negotiating committee said Tuesday that the contract also gives employees the right to publish books based on work done for Gawker; mandates that night and weekend contractors have to be paid as much as union-represented employees after they have been working for at least one year; and mandates that full-time contractors (“permalancers”) have to be offered full-time jobs after a year unless the company decides to stop using them altogether.

The committee also said the contract protects editorial independence. “Decisions about what to post can be made only by editorial, and decisions about taking anything down requires a majority vote of the CEO, the executive editor and the general counsel,” it said.

The deal also provides that the company will meet regularly with a union committee to discuss diversity in the workplace.

The WGA East also unionized writers and producers last year at the Huffington Post, Vice, Salon and ThinkProgress, but Gawker is the first with a union contract.

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