HuffPost Writers & Editors Unanimously Ratify New WGA East Contract

WGA East-represented news writers and producers at HuffPost have ratified a new three-year contract. According to the guild, the pact was approved unanimously by the 91-member bargaining unit employed at the online news site.

A deal on the new contract was reached on February 1, and a strike averted, after 98% of the writers and editors signed a pledge vowing to strike if they didn’t get a fair contract.

“Guild members at HuffPost fought hard to win an extraordinary contract that provides numerous tangible gains that will immediately enrich our members’ professional and personal lives,” said Lowell Peterson, the guild’s executive director. “This contract could not have been reached without the unit’s incredible solidarity throughout these tough negotiations, and they have been rewarded with an agreement that raises the bar for the entire online media industry.” 

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The covered writers and producers said in a joint statement: “We are incredibly proud of our third contract, which builds a better future for HuffPost and the talented individuals who work here and raises the bar for our entire industry. With a unanimous ratification vote, we can’t wait to get to work enforcing the protections we fought so hard for at the bargaining table.”

Upon reaching terms for the new contract, a HuffPost spokesperson said, “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the HuffPost union that will help us build a bright future for this incredible newsroom.”

The new contract increases salary minimums by about 10%, resulting in pay raises of $5,000-$8,000 for several members. The lowest salary minimum now will be $66,625, which the guild says is the highest starting salary of any WGA East Online Media contract. In the first year of the contract, the agreement guarantees annual salary increases of 3.4% for unit members making below $92,000, and 3% for those making above $92,000. The entire unit will receive 3% salary increases in the second and third year of the contract.

Other highlights of the new contract include:  

  • With respect to career development, a process to ensure that job titles and salary levels reflect the workers’ skill and work; a promotion panel with union representation to appeal promotion denials; one-month unpaid professional leave for those who have been with the company more than three years; requests for remote work will not be unreasonably denied; 5% minimum salary increase upon promotion, and a process and timeline to move off irregular shifts.
  • With respect to diversity and inclusion, everyone on a hiring panel will need to complete anti-bias training; a bargaining unit member will be on all hiring panels; a two-week extension to the hiring search if the candidate pool is not sufficiently diverse; a significant increase in requirements for interviewing candidates from underrepresented populations; better protections for disability accommodations and reimbursement for related costs; DI&B (diversity, inclusion and belonging) training specific to digital media newsrooms will include issues of identifying and addressing potential racism and other bias in newsrooms; $35,000 funding for the Diversity Committee and a spending tracker for transparency; audit of internal systems to make sure gender pronouns and preferred names are properly used, and no non-disclosure agreements for settlements related to harassment or discrimination.
  • Codified $75-a-month month work-from-home stipend and a $300 one-time payment for new employees.
  • New benefits include 18 weeks plus any disability weeks for parental leave; mental health care reimbursement; abortion access reimbursement from the company for any costs incurred in states where abortions are illegal; limits on increases to healthcare premiums; paid time off payouts upon separation; monthly self-care days; pregnancy loss leave to be covered under bereavement; short-term disability paid at 100% salary up to four weeks, and codified World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH) standards of gender-affirming care.
  • Editorial protections include an improved “No Strike Clause” that allows for solidarity actions and no struck work, and an improved process for outside work approvals.
  • A codified 40-hour work week; payout of comp time upon separation; two comp days in addition to pay for working holidays, and additional comp days for those on irregular shifts.
  • A 30-day severance notification to the guild if there will be a reduction in workforce; a two-week notice when an employee is to be laid off, and fairness in the layoff process so that when other factors are similar, seniority will govern. 
  • Health and safety provisions with extensive protections requiring a safe workplace. 

In addition to HuffPost, the 7,000-member guild’s Online Media Sector includes Salon, Slate, Vice, Vox Media, Hearst Magazines, MTV News, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Gizmodo Media Group, BDG, Talking Points Media, Chalkbeat, Fast Company, FT Specialist, Future PLC, Jewish Currents, NowThis, Onion Inc., Refinery29, The Dodo, The Intercept and Thrillist.

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