Studio closures, harassment, crunch time, rumblings of unionization - game labour issues currently have unprecedented public profile. Join us at a public forum in Toronto with game developers, media work researchers, and digital labour activists to discuss working conditions and social inequalities in the video games industry and strategies to improve conditions in digital media.
Since spring 2015, journalists in almost 50 newsrooms have unionized, mostly in digital-born outlets in the United States. This “wave” of unionization, as it has been dubbed in media accounts, took many by surprise. The turn to unions also belied the popular image of digital-first media outlets like VICE and Vox: laid-back workplaces staffed by young, underpaid but happy writers, fueled by tech startups’ do-what-you-love, libertarian ethos, and housed in offices that look more like nightclubs than newsrooms. But journalists are unionizing in response to the new normal in digital media (and journalism more generally), including pressurized working conditions, precarious employment, and a lack of management transparency.
Co-ops have the potential to offer greater control over production and distribution of creative products, exactly the sort of control that many creatives want, but are told is only available to them as ‘entrepreneurs.’ They also have structural features that lead to them being better able to deliver autonomy to creatives, whilst at the same time delivering greater equality – economic and cultural - than that typically found in non-co-operative businesses. We want to challenge the dominance of the competitive, entrepreneurial model that has been central to both business support and educational provision for the creative industries, and argue that the skills of collaboration and co-operation are equally vital.
It used to be typical for mainstream media articles to endorse unpaid internships, positioning them as essential for standing out in a hyper-competitive labour market. But today, articles about internships emphasize class-based exclusion in the intern economy, challenge assumptions about meritocracy, and expose employers who break minimum wage regulations. What’s behind the pivot in public opinion that has seen internships shift from a benign rite of passage to a lightning rod workers’ rights issue? Activism. We map out the groups working to transform the politics of internships, noting how they have been able to shift mainstream media coverage of unpaid internships.
At a moment of tremendous flux in journalism, unions are trending in digital newsrooms. In June 2015, Gawker’s unionization kicked off a wave of digital media organizing. Ongoing efforts to unionize aim to improve working conditions in a growing sector of the media economy, and workers have won better pay, job security, and benefits. But union drives have also had broader aims: to support editorial freedom in an age of sponsored content, to protect and expand racial and gender diversity, and to give workers a stronger voice in their newsrooms. This timeline highlights some key moments in ongoing efforts to organize digital media.
Unions are trending in digital newsrooms. This chapter examines the campaign to unionize one workplace within an ongoing digital media organizing wave: VICE Canada, a subset of VICE Media. Our account is based on in-depth interviews with inside organizing committee members, Canadian Media Guild staff organizers, and VICE staff; a review of documents produced during the drive; and media coverage of the campaign. VICE Canada staff hoped that the union would raise and standardize pay, protect and expand racial and gender diversity and equity, and support editorial freedom.
Rather than surrender it to private business or dismiss it as a shill of neoliberal exploitation, coworking is better grasped as contested: it assists growing numbers of independent workers in navigating precarious employment. The question is whether coworking spaces can do double-duty, or, help sustain livelihoods and advance economic alternatives. One path to push back against coworking’s capture by corporate capital and to move beyond the pressures of individualisation on coworking members is co-operativism.