BuzzFeed employees walk out, blast ‘rich executives’

A handful of BuzzFeed News employees have staged a walkout for a day, demanding better pay and benefits just as the company prepares to go public.

“We've been bargaining our contract for almost 2 years, but BuzzFeed won't budge on critical issues like wages – all while preparing to go public and make executives even richer,” the union representing the 61 protesting employees tweeted on Thursday. 

If BuzzFeed gets shareholder approval for the merger deal with ​​890 Fifth Avenue Partners, the company could go public as soon as Monday with a reported possible valuation of around $1.5 billion.

Among the listed complaints are employee salaries and the amount of control the company can actually have over what they do outside of work. 

The current proposal, according to the union, “would require that union members get approval to do any outside ‘content’ work,” reporter Ema O’Connor said in a Newsguild press statement.

“Outside content” can range from a freelance article to a “makeup tutorial on TikTok,” according to the BuzzFeed News Union.

The “floor” salary of $50,000 a year (plus 1% raises every year) is also not enough, at least if they want to live in cities like New York City or San Francisco, both of which BuzzFeed has newsrooms in.

The BuzzFeed union began in 2019 after an employee vote to unionize with the NewsGuild of New York. It represents a variety of employees, including reporters, editors, photographers, etc. Since its formation, the union and company have failed to reach an agreement on even a first contract. BuzzFeed has over 1,000 employees under their umbrella. 

A spokesperson for BuzzFeed responded to the walkout by saying they will continue negotiating with the union, with a “bargaining session” planned for Tuesday. 

“Before then, the company is gearing up for an incredibly exciting milestone: becoming the first publicly traded digital media company, and acquiring Complex Networks. We couldn’t be more excited about everything that lies ahead for BuzzFeed and its employees,” the company said. 

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