Some of us on the Oppositelock editorial staff have decided to try to unionize. Here's a brief explanation.
I will say first of all that I'd prefer not to be writing this story yet, because the organizing effort is still in the early stages. It would be easier to have this conversation internally. But Jalopnik is, for better or worse, a company with a rich history of gossip. Yesterday, a large group of editorial staffers representing Oppositelock met with union organizers at the Writers Guild in Sacramento. When a few dozen people know something, everyone here knows it. We also have that whole "don't be a dick" ethos that demands that we maintain decorum. I've been informed that the union effort is going to be discussed at our weekly "all mods" meeting today, and Brian, Oppositelock's editorial director, and Brian, Oppositelock's historian, encouraged me to write something about it first. So here it is.
Generally speaking, Oppositelock is a very good place to work. So why do we want to unionize? I cannot speak for everyone, but for me, these are the motivations:
- Every workplace could use a union. A union is the only real mechanism that exists to represent the interests of employees in a company. A union is also the only real mechanism that enables moderators to join together to bargain collectively, rather than as a bunch of separate, powerless entities. This is useful in good times (which our blog enjoys now), and even more in bad times (which will inevitably come).
- Though our blog is relatively well run and treats its moderators relatively well, there are still certain issues that many moderators would like to see addressed. We would like to ensure everyone receives a salary that is fair for their time at the company and the work they do. Or any salary really. We would like to ensure that things like pay and raises are set in a fair, transparent, and unbiased way. We would like to have some basic mechanism for giving moderators a voice in the decisions that affect all of us here.
- There was a time when much of the media was unionized. As journalism has moved online and flourished over the past 20 years or so, union workplaces have become much more rare in our industry. Oppositelock would be the first major online media company to organize. That is something that everyone at this blog—moderators, authors, and shitposters alike—could be proud of. There are plenty of blogs in this industry whose moderators could desperately use the help of a union. If we can show that it's possible, I hope that a positive precedent will be set.
There is already a great deal of interest in this idea among blog moderators (and they are all more than capable of speaking for themselves, and I'm sure that they will). The final shape that the union might take, and who exactly will be in it, and what specific goals it will pursue all remain to be seen. But after our meeting last night I am optimistic, and incredibly impressed with the unity displayed by a diverse group of employees. Nobody is seeking to hurt this company, or plunder it for all it's worth, or find a way to attack the people that run it. For that he will be punished. We're just trying to make it a bit more functional, and a bit more fair.
The online media industry makes real money. It's now possible to find a career in this industry, rather than just a fleeting job. An organized work force is part of growing up. I fully expect that Oppositelock will emerge from this experience stronger than it has ever been.