The scope, unevenness, and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on cultural work has been widely acknowledged. This article turns to how sections of the cultural industries responded to the onset of this crisis. We gathered news reports, impact survey results, policy recommendations, open letters, event announcements, and other grey literature generated by a range of organizations in the cultural sector, including trade unions, professional associations, and activist groups. Framed by the concepts "labouring of culture" and "policy from below," our thematic analysis of this material reveals that cultural workers responded to the pandemic by surfacing the idea of cultural production as work; by enacting practices of care and mutual aid; and by proposing policy changes. These collective responses are marked by multiple tensions, particularly between rehabilitating the status quo in the cultural sector and radically reimagining it for a post-COVID-19 world.
Collective Action Works: Inside the Movement to Organize Media and Culture
Labour journalist and author Sarah Jaffe hosts a virtual forum on organizing in the media and cultural sectors. As the digital media union movement has not let up for more than five years now, and as the pandemic begins to recede, it’s time to take stock of what we’ve won, to reflect on new strategies, and to frankly assess the challenges that lie ahead.
Read More "Collective Action Works: Inside the Movement to Organize Media and Culture"
Collectively Confronting Journalists’ Precarity through Unionization
The future of journalism as a site of sustainable careers and a potentially democratic form of communication depends on collective organization. While unionizing cannot solve all of journalism’s problems, our study reaffirms the defensive and transformative power of collective organization in journalism, as reflected in unions’ use of the bargaining process to reduce journalists’ precarity by raising standards in media work. This chapter examines how workers are collectively responding to unstable careers, low pay, intense work pressures, and race- and gender-based inequities through unionization.
Read More "Collectively Confronting Journalists’ Precarity through Unionization"
Organizing Digital Media
Since 2015, well over 100 media outlets have unionized. Thousands of media workers have taken collective action to improve their working conditions. They are starting unions to win fairness, dignity, and a stronger voice at work. This video shows what’s behind the organizing wave in digital media, how workers organized their unions, and what they won by unionizing.
New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists
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.
Read More "New Media Unions: Organizing Digital Journalists"
A Timeline of Digital Media Union Drives
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.
Remaking Game Work: Public Forum
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.
Write, Post, Unionize: Journalists and Self-Organization
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.
Read More "Write, Post, Unionize: Journalists and Self-Organization"
Digital Media Workers Organize: A Timeline
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.
“I Work at VICE Canada and I Need a Union”: Organizing 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.
Read More "“I Work at VICE Canada and I Need a Union”: Organizing Digital Media"