BuzzFeed employees slam the company as it goes public

Digital media company BuzzFeed (BZFD) went public on Monday after a SPAC merger that valued the company at $ 1.5 billion, setting it apart from peers like Vox and Vice who remain private.

But some employees don’t party. The milestone comes days after dozens of workers in the point-of-sale’s information division, which won a Pulitzer Prize this year, left their posts to protest a move they say enriches executives while that the company refuses a union contract that would increase employee wages and strengthen workers’ protections.

BuzzFeed strongly disputes this characterization, saying the decision to go public will benefit both management and workers, and that the company is eager to strike a deal with unionized workers.

The clash marks a flashpoint of worker unrest in the digital media sector, a rare source of union growth in recent years that could attract increased attention as online outlets begin to turn to markets public.

“We’re the reason they have a product to go public,” said Addy Baird, BuzzFeed reporter and chairman of the BuzzFeedNews Union, which was formed in 2019 and has been negotiating with the company for a contract since that year. . “We can’t wait any longer. “

All 61 members of the BuzzFeedNews union left their posts last Thursday, the same day the company’s shareholders voted in favor of the company’s proposed IPO, Baird said. The main areas of concern for unionized employees include salary increases, the ability to self-employment and post content outside of BuzzFeed channels, and the use of traffic metrics in employee reviews. The union also accused BuzzFeed of unnecessarily delaying negotiations.

Speaking to Yahoo Finance, the company noted that the union represents a small portion of the roughly 1,100 employees who work at BuzzFeed. As part of the SPAC merger, the company acquired sports and entertainment publishing company Complex for $ 300 million, bringing the workforce to 1,400, BuzzFeed said.

Contract negotiations were set aside for several months at the start of the pandemic by emergency discussions between management and employees on how to adapt the workplace, BuzzFeed said. The next round of negotiations will take place on Tuesday.

“A negotiating session is scheduled for tomorrow where we look forward to making more progress with the union,” a company spokesperson told Yahoo Finance in a statement. “Today, the company is celebrating an incredible milestone: becoming the premier publicly traded digital media company, with Complex Networks in our ranks, and equity capital for further transactions to come. We couldn’t be more excited about what lies ahead for BuzzFeed and its people.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – DECEMBER 06: Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, stands in front of the Nasdaq Marketplace site in Times Square as the company goes public through a merger with a specialist acquisition company on December 06 2021 in New York. Shares of the digital media company, traded under the new symbol “BZFD”, rose 12.7% to $ 10.84 when markets opened on Monday. (Photo by Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

In its latest proposal, BuzzFeed offered workers a floor wage of $ 50,000 and a guaranteed 1% annual increase, Baird said, scoffing at conditions as being below industry standards. In a public statement on walkout Last week, the union highlighted the challenge of living with such wages in high-cost cities like New York and San Francisco, where some BuzzFeed offices are located.

“It’s incredibly frustrating for us,” Baird said. “We are for newbies asking them to change their minimum wage. Engage in the process; stop slowing it down.”

BuzzFeed says it has proposed an average overall salary increase of 2.5% for all union members, but that individual annual increases would vary 1% upward based on merit.

BuzzFeed expects $ 521 million in revenue in 2021, including revenue generated by Complex Systems.

The company plans to raise $ 16 million from the PSPC deal, after investors withdrew 94% of the $ 287.5 million raised by PSPC, according to a file updated last week. The stock price edged down early in Monday’s trading and was down more than 7% as of 2:30 p.m. EST.

The company and the union have reached tentative agreements on a host of non-economic proposals, including remote working as well as health and safety measures, BuzzFeed said.

The BuzzFeedNews union is owned by the NewsGuild, which represents workers at numerous publications, including Reuters, Business Insider and The New Yorker. BuzzFeedNews workers are ready to stage additional protests if the two sides fail to come to an agreement, Baird said.

“We are clearly able to mobilize quickly and effectively, and we will continue to do so until we have a fair and strong contract that we are ready to ratify,” said Baird. “As for the immediate future, our next big thing is to get to the bargaining table.”

Max Zahn is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Find him on twitter @MaxZahn_.

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