Earlier this month, dozens of Vox Media staffers took to Twitter to share their personal stories about what it has been like to work at the digital media giant.
A host of reporters, editors and other staffers addressed their tweets to CEO Jim Bankoff to share how proud they were of their work they had done, and how instrumental the company had been to their careers. They also wrote, however, about chronically low wages (reporters based in Washington DC, for example, can expect a measly salary of $30,000 a year), salary discrepancies, a lack of diversity in the team, and being wrongly classified as part-timers while doing full-time work without the benefits.
“A fun thing I have learned recently is that I am one of four black senior writers in all of @voxmediainc,” wrote Jane Coaston, “this could mean one of two things. Either there are just four qualified black senior writers in the whole of America (which seems highly unlikely!) or offering hilariously low pay to hard-working journalists is not a terrific recruiting strategy.”
The coordinated campaign is something of a social media version of a street protest and forms part of a wider effort to draw attention to contract negotiations between Vox Media management and the Vox Union. At the time of Coaston’s tweet, the Vox Union was 24 hours away from a scheduled bargaining day with Vox executives.
The union is asking for salary minimums, guaranteed raises, and appropriate severance packages for laid-off workers. The very public social media campaign follows on the heels of a more private campaign that took place within the Vox Slack messaging app a few days previous, where more than 100 staffers shared stories about working conditions in messages addressed to CEO Bankoff.
“Hi Jim,” wrote James Barry, “[at my job with Vox] I worked extremely hard, getting in early and staying late to finish edits way pass [sic] the end of a normal work day.
Last year, my wife became extremely ill. I was only able to take off two weeks from the office because that was all that was offered to me with pay… [my wife] could potentially die…but I came back to work because I didn’t have any options. It’s time we got a fair contract so we can come to work and not have to swallow an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread.”
This latest campaign by the Vox Union is just one part of a recent wave of unionizing tactics by new media employees and speaks to a future PR risk for a host of firms with internet-savvy teams. Campaigns like these are made all the more effective by employees who are adept at building and engaging a digital audience and could be the face of the modern labor dispute.
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