What Union Drive at VICE Canada Means for the Future of Journalism

Nicole Cohen (2016) “What Union Drive at Vice Canada Means for the Future of Journalism”, NOW Magazine, Feb. 2.

Amid fevered debates about the future of journalism in Canada, a union drive at Vice Canada is signalling that young journalists have a vision for digital-first media outlets – most of them branches of American-owned companies – that are growing and very profitable yet are not easy places to work.

Organizing efforts by the Canadian Media Guild at Vice follow a wave of successful drives in several digital newsrooms south of the border in 2015, including Gawker, Vice, the Guardian US, Salon.com and, most recently, the Huffington Post, whose newsroom of 262 journalists makes it the largest unionized digital news staff in North America.

Although the Writers Guild of America and the News Media Guild invested time and money in those organizing efforts, they were mostly led by young journalists with little previous union experience.

Beyond the benefits for workers at specific outlets, Hamilton Nolan, Gawker’s longest-tenured scribe, writes that the drives were “a really important symbolic vote for our entire industry. It’s the first step of a movement.”

The goals at Vice Canada may appear to be modest – higher salaries, improved benefits and “protection from being fired without reason.” But staff are also organizing to protect journalistic autonomy from management and to maintain “clear journalistic standards.”

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Image credit: Canadian Media Guild