Digiday: Marick Masters on digital media unionization

The rise of unionization in digital media is normally framed in one of two extreme ways: as an innovation-killing millstone or as a panacea for beaten-down journalists’ problems. But like so many other things in life, the reality lies somewhere in the middle, according to sources at eight different digital publications that have unionized recently. Unions have raised wages, improved benefits and enhanced protection for staffers; raised morale and improved communication among workers who sometimes felt siloed and isolated from one another; created clear lines of demarcation around who can do what kind of work; and formalized new standards around transparency and equality. They have also made it significantly harder for managers to fire workers they see as ill-fitting or under-performing; they have made it more complicated for different teams to help one another, especially as tactics change; they have also failed to protect workers from layoffs or sales, as publishers ranging from Vice to Gizmodo to Mic, which ride media’s choppy waters, have all been forced to let people go. “The message resonates well with the potential [employees],” said Marick Masters, a professor of management and former director of Labor@Wayne at Wayne State University. “They’re very inclined to be activists, and they’re very good at communicating with each other.”

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