A group of approximately 150 editorial workers who help produce some of NBC News digital content have formed a union, citing a desire to push their employer to work more seriously through such issues as equal pay and the recent handling of sensitive stories.
Editorial employees of NBC News Digital won certification of their union after a vote count at the National Labor Relations Board in Manhattan Friday afternoon, with a vote for forming a bargaining unit prevailing 90 to 40, according to the NewsGuild of New York, which will represent the staffers. The group includes reporters, video journalists, editors, social media strategists, designers, and editorial staff from NBC News outlets such as NBCNews.com, Today.,com, the Snapchat program “Stay Tuned,” MSNBC.com and NBC News Now, the company’s recently launched streaming-video outlet. The NewsGuild said NBC management challenged the eligibility of nearly 20 editorial employees to vote in the election.
“I have heard from many of you over the past several weeks about your love for NBC News, your excitement for all that we are building in Digital, and your commitment to making sure this continues to be a very special place to work,” said Chris Berend, executive vice president of NBC News Digital, said in a memo to staffers Friday. “Our leadership team makes that same commitment back to you— that News Digital will continue to nurture a workplace that we can all be incredibly proud to be a part of.”
Employees announced the formation of the union effort in late October.
NBC News’ digital operations represent an area of growth and investment at the company, which has worked to create new types of news content for a generation that might not think to tune in to “Today” on NBC or a program on MSNBC as its first source of video news. As more consumers get information through mobile and social media, NBC has tried to keep pace with the debut of new podcasts, streaming-video programming and shows tailored for new media venues.
NBC News sat under a microscope for a good chunk of the year, weighed down by allegations contained in the recent Ronan Farrow book “Catch and Kill” that it asked the journalist to stop the investigation he had been conducting into accusations of sexual harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein. The book also contained new claims by a former NBC News staffer, Brooke Nevils, that former “Today” co-anchor Matt Lauer raped her during NBC News coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
NBC News has recounted all of its efforts to help move Farrow’s work along, suggesting the work he did for NBC News did not meet a standard of having a victim make allegations against Weinstein on the record and on camera. Farrow took his work to The New Yorker, and was able to publish a story seven weeks later that shared in a Pulitzer Prize with The New York Times. Lauer has vehemently denied the allegations made against him.
“Our mission is to uphold the legacy of NBC News while empowering and protecting those who will build its future,” the new union said in a statement.
The bargaining unit also noted that “recent weeks have highlighted serious questions as to how NBC News has handled incidents of sexual misconduct in the workplace as well as the opaque processes and procedures for reporting on and exposing powerful predators. NBC News repeatedly refused calls for an independent review on both counts despite numerous such requests from staff. This lack of transparency and NBC News’ troubling trend of passing on stories which investigate the powerful ultimately harm our credibility as journalists.” Employees want to “address these issues, but only if management works with us,” the union said.