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labor Slate Staffers Vote to Unionize in Defiance of Stiff Management Resistance

Slate editorial employees voted to unionize on Tuesday after a 10-month battle that saw staffers at the magazine run up against stiff resistance from management.

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Slate editorial employees voted to unionize on Tuesday after a 10-month battle that saw staffers at the magazine run up against stiff resistance from management.

Voters from the proposed 54-person bargaining unit voted to organize by a margin of 45-7. Their union, Writers Guild of America-East, also represents Gizmodo Media Group, which includes Splinter, and several other digital outlets. 

In a statement announcing the news Tuesday evening, the Slate Organizing Committee said it was “thrilled by the result of today’s vote [and] proud to join the growing number of digital media workers invested in collective action.” 

Slate’s bargaining unit includes all but six senior newsroom employees, as well as about a half-dozen podcast staffers who produce shows like the Political Gabfest and The Gist. It does not count staffers at Panoply, a podcast network that is part of the Slate Group but produces programs for other media outlets, such as Vox. 

The online vote Tuesday marked a compromise between the Slate organizing committee and management, which had for months insisted on a paper-ballot election administered by the National Labor Relations Board. A joint statement from the two sides to Splinter said only that they had “worked together to determine how to assess editorial employees’ desire to join a union.” A source with knowledge of the organizing effort declined to elaborate much further. 

The unionization has been a long time coming. Slate Group Chairman Jacob Weisberg declined to voluntarily recognize WGAE in a March 2017 letter to staff obtained by Splinter. He warned of a future “filled with bureaucracy and procedure”—a world that “is just not Slate-y.” He continued: “All a union can guarantee is a conversation about a contract.”

Slate staffers, a group known for their contrarianism, will now begin testing that thesis in earnest.