BuzzFeed Employees Vote to Unionize After Major Layoffs

February 13, 2019, 2:32 PM UTC

Just weeks after BuzzFeed laid off more than 200 people in January, employees at the digital news brand voted to unionize on Tuesday, according to the NewsGuild of New York. More than 90% of eligible employees voted in favor of the move.

A statement delivered to BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith listed a number of demands, including contractually-guaranteed paid time off, due process for termination, greater newsroom diversity, “reasonable” severance for layoffs, a 401(k) plan, “affordable” health insurance, and author rights to creative works.

“We look forward to meeting with the organizers to discuss a way toward voluntarily recognizing their union,” Smith told the Wall Street Journal.

BuzzFeed had layoffs in early 2018 as well after reportedly missing 2017 revenue goals by as much as 20%, according to Variety.

The most recent round of layoffs in January were part of a 15% overhead cut. The company employs more than 1,300 people. Yet company revenues in 2018 were up 15% over 2017.

BuzzFeed was not the only media property undergoing layoffs. So far this year, more than 2,200 people in the industry have lost their jobs. That includes 250 at Vice Media; 450 at the McClatchy Companies; 800 across Verizon’s Huffington Post, AOL, and Yahoo; and 400 at newspaper owner Gannett. Digital outlets, in particular, face difficult times because of the dominance that Google and Facebook have in digital advertising revenue.

BuzzFeed has reportedly looked at a potential merger with another online publisher, Group Nine, according to Recode.

The union letter to Smith mentioned that the company had mentioned the possibility of a merger, adding, “Given the track record of salaried workers getting the shaft during big transitions, however, we want to make sure workers have some stability if that happens.”