labor Gothamist and DNAinfo Newsrooms Now Have a Union
Reporters and editors at the commonly owned New York news sites DNAinfo and Gothamist are now represented by a union.
The newsroom workers initially agreed to join the union, the Writers Guild of America East, in April, shortly after DNAinfo bought Gothamist. But DNAinfo’s owner, Joe Ricketts, refused to recognize the union, so the National Labor Relations Board conducted a formal vote on Thursday. The result — 25 out of 27 workers voted to join the Writers Guild — means that management is required to bargain with the union.
DNAinfo, which specializes in covering the city neighborhood by neighborhood, has broken big stories and earned respect since its founding in 2009, but it has never turned a profit. Gothamist, with a smaller staff but wider readership, is a blog with attitude that combines original reporting, cultural coverage and aggregation.
After the workers tried to organize in the spring, Mr. Ricketts, who founded TD Ameritrade and whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, wrote to them, “As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business.”
DNAinfo’s chief operating officer, Dan Swartz, wrote an email to the staff around the same time, wondering: “Would a union be the final straw that caused the business to close? I don’t know.” DNAinfo had laid off several employees before buying Gothamist, and laid off several more after.
Mr. Schwartz did not immediately respond to requests for comment, nor di Mr. Ricketts.
The Writers Guild, which represents many digital news staffs, including those at Vice, the Gizmodo Media Group and HuffPost, said it would meet with its new members and put together a set of demands.
Gothamist has sites in four other sites, and DNAinfo has a site in Chicago, but only the New York employees have joined the union.
Katie Honan, a DNAinfo reporter who covers Queens and was part of the organizing effort, said that like many digital-media workers, the newsrooms at DNAinfo and Gothamist were looking for stability.
“No one’s trying to bankrupt anybody,” she said. “We just want to have an ability to negotiate things, and not necessarily money. If this is the future of journalism, it should be a career for people, not a postcollege hobby.”
Of the management’s threats to shut down the sites, Ms. Honan said, “We took them seriously, but we still really thought that unionizing for us was the best way to do what Mr. Ricketts wants to do — to collaborate and combine these two sites to really cover New York.”