Time magazine’s digital staffers are seeking to unionize, breaking down a barrier at the organization between print and digital wings of the publication.
The iconic magazine’s print employees have been unionized for 80 years through the NewsGuild, which also represents a number of major news outlets including The Daily Beast.
But the union’s contract has not covered staffers designated by the company as primarily digital focused. In a statement provided to The Daily Beast, Time magazine digital staff said only employees who prove they spend 30% of their time working on print are currently allowed to join the Time magazine union.
But like many newsrooms that still have a print magazine or newspaper, employees often work on both print and digital.
On Thursday, staff told the magazine’s management that they were seeking to join the company’s print union, noting that digital staff often work on major packages like the Time 100.
“It's great to work at Time and we’re excited to see what the future of Time will look like, but Time’s digital employees play a really big role in its success as a news outlet, and that’s only going to continue in the future,” Time digital reporter Cady Lang told The Daily Beast. “We’re asking to be respected with the same kinds of protections as our print colleagues.”
Time’s digital staffers would join a wave of newsrooms that have unionized in the past several years amid layoffs and tumult in the media industry. BuzzFeed News, Vox Media, and The New Yorker have all formed unions over the past two years, seeking greater newsroom diversity, standard pay, and stronger severance agreements.
Time’s digital employees mentioned many of the same goals in their statement Thursday. They noted that print employees had greater protections from being fired, as well as guaranteed annual cost-of-living raises. The staff also said they were paid “significantly less than the market value of our work.”
“For years, Time has operated as a two-tier system, whereby the print staff has the protection of our Collective Bargaining Agreement and the digital staff does not,” Time reporter Leslie Dickstein said. “This is an artificial and outdated divide. We believe every worker at Time deserves the benefits and protections of a union contract.”
The unionization effort presents a potential test for the magazine’s management and new owners.
Late last year, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff and his wife, Lynne, purchased the magazine. The billionaire tech mogul has positioned himself as an example of a progressive corporate leader who promotes positive social values in the workplace, including advocating for gender pay equity and nonprofit work.
In their statement Thursday, staffers said they were excited by the new owners and their vision for the publication’s future, and noted Benioff’s public comments supporting strong worker benefits and protections.
“Marc and Lynne Benioff want us to create a Time that lives by its values and walks its talk,” the statement said. “One of those values, according to Edward, is that our people are our most important asset. We agree. And that’s why we hope management will voluntarily recognize our union—and in turn, recognize that all of our people are essential to the success of this 96-year-old institution.”
In a statement, a Time spokesperson said the company would discuss the staffers' proposal with the News Guild.
"Since the formation of our new company in November, Time has worked hard to build a strong relationship with the News Guild, to provide our employees with new enhanced benefits and to build a vibrant and collaborative culture. We look forward to these further discussions with the guild."