BuzzFeed News employees plan to unionize following the firing of 220 employees, 15 percent of its news staff, the New York Times reports.
While critics of BuzzFeed‘s perceived left-wing bias were quick to chant “go woke, go broke” (a meme that liberal ideas of diversity in media are not popular and result in a financial loss), BuzzFeed didn’t go broke because they got woke, in fact, they didn’t go broke at all.
Throughout 2018, BuzzFeed made near $300 million in revenue, over 15 percent more than the previous year, and according to the Wall Street Journal, they “basically hit” their revenue goals. So then, why did BuzzFeed fire 220 hardworking journalists?
CEO Jonah Peretti justified this on a memo (which you can read in full on the embedded tweet below) explaining that “revenue growth by itself is not enough to be successful in the long run,” ensuring that they needed the layoffs to avoid having to raise more funds as they did in 2016 with the $400,000 investment from NBCUniversal.
In the same memo, Peretti told his employees that the news hurts him deeply on a personal level, as he sees the BuzzFeed staff as a family. He then proceeded to deny most of his recently fired employees’ payment for the “earned, accrued, and vested” paid time off, per Variety.
— Ben Mullin (@BenMullin) January 23, 2019
Following this, an open letter by the BuzzFeed News Staff Council surfaced on Medium, demanding for BuzzFeed to payout their former employees for the PTO they’ve invested into the company, as they did with their California offices, where the law requires it. The letter was signed by over 600 current BuzzFeed employees.
“They saved up those days (or weeks) because they were so dedicated to their work, and, in some cases, felt actively discouraged from taking time off. They have as much of a right to those days as anyone else.”
Peretti eventually gave in. However, it wasn’t enough to qualm the displeased staff. Led by Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith, the news division released a statement announcing the formation of a union of BuzzFeed workers.
“Our staff has been organizing for several months, and we have legitimate grievances about unfair pay disparities, mismanaged pivots and layoffs, weak benefits, skyrocketing health insurance costs, diversity and more.”
BuzzFeed has the option to not recognize the union. However, over 90 percent of the eligible editorial employees agreed to unionize, so BuzzFeed risks a paralyzing strike if they don’t accept their terms.
Though the union effort only involves employees at BuzzFeed‘s News division, this isn’t the first time BuzzFeed‘s H.R. policies have come into the spotlight.
Many of its prominent influencers have publically left the company, shedding some light into their practices. For a few months in 2017, “Why I Left BuzzFeed” was its own genre of YouTube video.