A hybrid co-op primer and research report, Sharing Like We Mean It: Working Co-operatively in the Cultural and Tech Sectors is based on a survey of more than 100 co-operatives in Canada, the UK, and the US. It offers a snapshot of the co-op landscape in creative industries, explores what co-operative work can look like in practice, and features profiles of several worker co-ops. Our survey results confirm that the co-operative model is a promising strategy for mitigating individualized patterns of work, democratizing work relationships, and providing satisfying work in creative industries contexts.
From BuzzFeed to the Los Angeles Times, over 60 newsrooms have unionized since 2015. What began as a flash of organizing by digital-first journalists has become a full-blown movement to unionize journalism, primarily in the United States. New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists documents a historic and ongoing moment in the digital media industry that has brought thousands of media workers into the labour movement. Nicole Cohen and Greig de Peuter examine what motivates union drives, then follow journalists through the making of a union from scratch. They explore how journalists strategically self-organize, apply their communication skills to alternative ends, generate affective bonds of solidarity, and build power to confront anti-union campaigns and bargain first contracts, winning significant gains and drafting a new labour code for journalism in a digital age.
At a moment of tremendous flux in journalism, unions are trending in newsrooms. In conjunction with the publication of our book New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists, we have produced a timeline of the ongoing movement to unionize journalism, particularly in the United States. Since 2015, thousands of media workers have joined the Writers Guild of America, East, branches of The NewsGuild (Communication Workers of America), and the Canadian Media Guild (CWA Canada). Journalists are organizing to improve working conditions in a tumultuous sector of the media economy. But the union drives have also had broader aims: to expand racial and gender diversity in newsrooms, to support editorial independence, to protect local journalism, and to give workers a stronger voice in their newsrooms.
On 20 September 2018, W.A.G.E. (Working Artists and the Greater Economy), an artist-initiated activist organization based in New York City, launched WAGENCY. Countering unpaid work in the arts, the WAGENCY platform gives artists digital tools to request payment for their contributions to US nonprofit galleries and museums - from a solo exhibition to an artist’s talk. “W.A.G.E. is not an artwork,” W.A.G.E. insisted when it announced WAGENCY. This refusal to be misclassified as an art project highlights W.A.G.E.’s activist intentions: to transform prevailing institutional practices through collective action. This chapter positions W.A.G.E. as an alternative worker organization - albeit one whose strategies are shaped by the specific conditions of the art field, the economic habits of which W.A.G.E. has worked for more than a decade to reform.
In mid-March of this year, 35,000-40,000 students at CÉGEPs (pre‑university and technical colleges) and universities across Quebec went on strike for a week. Unlike the 2012 strike which was led by Coalition Large de l’ASSÉ (CLASSE), this year’s action was developed around a different organizing model and critique of the post-secondary education system in the province. The rebellion against tuition hikes and the theme of student debt at the heart of the 2012 strike have been replaced by a different analysis, one which places unwaged work at the center of the movement’s organizing. Inspired by the perspectives of autonomist-feminist organizers of the 1970s, the Comités Unitaires sur le Travail Étudiant (Student Work Unitary Committees, CUTE) have advanced a critique of the unwaged internships which are a key mechanism for the insertion of workers into labor markets. [...] Elizabeth Sarjeant and Enda Brophy interviewed Jeanne Bilodeau and Éloi Halloran on March …
The platforms we have surveyed here are but one piece of an emergent and highly varied set of communicative responses by workers to a new organization of labour markets, technologies, and processes. While promising in many respects, they have not yet reached the requisite scale to take part in sweeping wins for labour. All of them, however, display a common set of goals revolving around the establishment of an independent digital infrastructure for horizontal communication among workers and/or for promoting public contestation of corporate communications. As such, these labour organizing platforms have the potential to counteract the disempowering communicative logics of the labour management systems at platform companies.
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.