The editorial, creative, social, and video staff of Bustle Digital Group, across Bustle, Elite Daily, Input, Inverse, Mic, Nylon, Romper, and The Zoe Report, are thrilled to announce we’ve formed a union with the Writers Guild of America, East. We are proud of creating work that is intentionally inclusive, creative, and empowering. Unionizing will allow us to more fully live out these values. Considering the momentous changes that are routine in our industry and the unique challenges of the past year, we feel now is the time to join our industry peers and organize in the hopes of forming a more equitable workplace. We love our work at BDG, and we are organizing to make it even better.
BDG is an unequivocal leader in digital media, thanks in large part to its labor force’s adaptability. We have worked through acquisitions, redesigns, content strategy pivots, elections, and a pandemic to deliver stories that engage our readers. In unionizing, we are working collectively to fulfill BDG’s publicly stated values and create a safe, fair workplace where everyone’s talents are nurtured, equitably compensated, and respected — a collaborative workplace where everyone’s voice is heard. If we are to be the rule-breaking global media company our leadership thinks of us as, it’s time for them to listen.
We ask that BDG honor the standard set by its industry peers by voluntarily recognizing our union. Working together, we can build a competitive newsroom with lower turnover, higher morale, and the best possible quality of work. The BDG Union looks forward to having a seat at the table to discuss the following issues:
BDG’s current organizational structure offers many of its employees flexibility and stability, but it can also be frustratingly arbitrary and opaque. Currently, employees’ ability to negotiate for themselves often comes down to their personal relationship with their manager. For part-timers in particular, the lack of communication and transparency from upper management keeps many from seeing paths for growth within the company. Part-time employees often provide full-time level commitment to their brands without benefits like healthcare, or enough time left after their shifts to adequately supplement their income. The labor of part-timers is essential to the company’s success, but these employees are kept at a distance from the company and from each other, without even email addresses to prove their association with BDG.
Already, the process of organizing has helped to end a culture of siloing that kept part-timers and full-timers in the dark about many aspects of our work. In bargaining, we aim to implement wage tiers with standardized, transparent salary minimums, clear job titles and descriptions, paths to advancement, and just-cause policies to protect employees from arbitrary terminations. This will allow all BDG employees to more clearly plan their futures with the company. Moreover, mandating robust benefits for both part- and full-time employees, like cost-of-living raises, healthcare, PTO, overtime pay, and paid holidays (rather than forced unpaid days off), will enable the company’s core labor force to thrive on the life side of work-life balance.
BDG employees also deserve security in the event of separation from the company. In bargaining to ban at-will employment, non-competes, forced arbitration clauses, and non-disclosure agreements, as well as creating guaranteed minimum severance, we will ensure every employee can leave the company on the same footing.
As members of this union, we came to work for BDG because of our sites’ public stances on inclusivity. But a tangible commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion requires internal accountability.
BDG’s lackluster efforts to create a diverse and inclusive workplace have created an atmosphere of tokenization for the marginalized workers it deigns to employ. The critical lack of BIPOC, LGBTQIA, disabled or otherwise marginalized employees means that those employees who are on staff bear a disproportionate burden to cover stories relating to their identities, even when it has nothing to do with their beat. This tokenization is unacceptable. Our union envisions a workplace where employees from marginalized backgrounds are not automatically burdened in moments of crisis. Furthermore, it is unacceptable for BDG brands to stay silent on conversations related to identity as a result of a lack of staff diversity.
Our union will fight for accountability measures to increase hiring, retention, and promotion of underrepresented employees, including making staff diversity metrics available on an ongoing basis. But it’s not enough to simply fulfill a metric, reducing identity to a number on a spreadsheet. This union aims to support current marginalized employees in their day-to-day work lives. This includes updating editorial standards to be more explicit and sensitive in addition to creating a safer atmosphere for pushback against tokenization.
Further, we will fight for review and disciplinary processes that are free of bias, with clear and transparent procedures for handling allegations of workplace discrimination that protects those bringing the allegations forward and those who have been harmed.
Digital media has weathered enormous challenges to maintain sustainable forms of revenue in the age of the algorithm. BDG’s sales team has won numerous industry awards for our creativity in doing just that. But as journalists, our primary product is our articles, and we seek to preserve the editorial independence and integrity that earns our readers’ trust. We cannot be asked to compromise our editorial integrity to fulfill a client’s needs simply to close a deal. We demand stronger safeguards between editorial and advertising; clearer insight into how editorial content is sold to clients; and a guarantee that no editorial employee shall be forced to write an article solely to please a client. Additionally, we ask that editorial standards are unified across the Lifestyle and Culture & Innovation groups.
The BDG Union means protecting what we love about the company, and ensuring transparent and accountable standards for all of our coworkers. We are excited to work with management towards a sustainable and equitable future of digital media.