Record Number of Journalists Unionize During COVID Pandemic
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Author: Sara Fischer
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The COVID-19 crisis has triggered a massive uptick in news media unionization efforts, union leaders tell Axios.

Why it matters: The trend is only going to grow bigger once people head back to work in-person, says Jon Schleuss, president of the NewsGuild. 

More consolidation in the industry via SPACs and local news takeovers will also drive record unionization efforts. 

Three key trends have pushed journalists to unionize over the past year, union executives tell Axios.

  1. Financial uncertainty: Journalists rushed to unionize early on in the pandemic following rounds of layoffs that were triggered by ad-industry headwinds. "Whenever there is concern about economic security, that is one of the factors leads people to unionize," says Peterson.
  2. SPACS and consolidation: Later in 2020, media companies began eyeing SPAC (special purpose acquisition company) deals that would allow outlets to go public and merge with other companies. Concerns about consolidation and new leadership have pushed more journalists to seek union protection.
  3. Social justice: A rise in political protests, and movements around racial justice, over the past year, have pushed journalists to seek further safety protections from unions, as well as better representation around diversity and inclusion. 

By the numbers: In 2020, more than 1,800 journalists across unions from the NewsGuild and the Writers Guild (of America) unionized, according to data from the leaders of both groups. That's up from roughly 1,500 the year prior. 

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