On December 15, 2015 Vice Canada, a growing (and very cool) digital news media company, announced that it was starting a union drive. This announcement comes on the heels of a growing trend in new media unionizing.
Although Canada has a long history of unionization within its major news organizations, digital or “new” media has been long been on the sidelines of union drives, particularly when compared to the US.
Since June 2015, a number of prominent American digital media companies have unionized without any significant conflict, including the Guardian US. The American branch of the British daily newspaper launched in 2011 and is completely digital. The swift change to a unionized environment at the Guardian US was bolstered in part by the Guardian’s tradition of working with unionized staff for its print editions in both the UK and Australia. Similarly, Gawker recently went through an organizing drive.
In Canada, the transition from print to digital news has been an arduous challenge for labour relations. For example, in 2014, tensions were inflammed when the Toronto Star hired “digital” journalists for its new tablet operations – operations which may have conflicted with other unionized employees. This conflict was resolved with an agreement to allow print journalists to ‘bump’ digital hires, among other concessions. This “expirement” will last until the 2016 expiry of their collective agreement.
Vice Canada will likely not face the same issue as its “new media” employees aren’t in conflict with other groups of employees – Vice is entirely “new media”. Will the trend continue?