High stakes union election is a big boost to labor organizing in digital media

A contentious union election that determines the fate of future newsroom organizing came to an end Tuesday night.

The results of the election for the Writers Guild of America, East council favored candidates who endorsed future organizing of and support for the digital media industry, prompting digital media workers to rejoice.

“[T]here is no better feeling than successfully working with your colleagues toward a common goal,” Alison Herman, a staff writer at sports and culture site The Ringer, tweeted. “I learned that from my own workplace, I learned that from this campaign, and I hope the wgae keeps that in mind as we look towards the future.”

The Ringer is one of more than 20 digital media outlets that has organized in recent years with the WGAE to secure better job benefits and workplace protections. The WGAE, which was founded in 1954 and has a sister unit in the West, originally focused its efforts on traditional screenwriters in TV and film. During its 2007-2008 strike, the WGAE had about 4,000 members. That number grew to more than 6,000 largely due to the union organizing digital media workers.

But in July, the previous WGAE council voted to put digital organizing on pause to evaluate other options. Members of the election’s Inclusion and Experience ticket wanted to reconsider future organizing of digital media companies and potentially spin out those workers into a separate union. The election prompted heated debates on Twitter. Herman of The Ringer, for example, tweeted back and forth with screenwriter David Simon, a member of the Inclusion and Experience ticket, about his position. Simon published a lengthy blog post last month on the election and a 22-tweet-long thread on Tuesday.

The Inclusion and Experience ticket included the president, vice president and secretary-treasury, who were all running unopposed and elected on Tuesday. Simon was re-elected to the council.

But also on Tuesday, all seven members of the Solidarity Slate — the opposing ticket that supported continuing to organize digital media shops — were elected to the WGAE council. The votes were cast by 30.09% of eligible voters, according to the news release.

Now, it will be up to the new council to debate the future of new organizing.

Michael Winship, the newly elected president, said, “This was perhaps the most difficult and hard-fought campaign in the Guild East’s history but we can now put that past us and come together as a Guild and as a council committing ourselves to finding solutions that will be in the best interests of all of our members.”

Hamilton Nolan, a member of the Solidarity Slate and a labor reporter at In These Times, conveyed a similar sentiment in a tweet Tuesday.

“One thing about unions is even if you disagree with people, you’re still in the same union,” Nolan tweeted. “No matter who anyone voted for, there are no enemies in a union. We will all get stronger together.”

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