After over a month of private and not-so-private squabbling, the management of podcasting firm Gimlet has recognized a union composed of staffers at the company. With Spotify’s purchase of the network in February, this makes Gimlet Union one of the first organized workforces under the umbrella of a major tech firm.
As Gizmodo previously reported, efforts to unionize under the Writers Guild of America, East first began around January but were stalled when management effectively lobbied the organizing committee, citing fears that public labor unrest might scuttle the Spotify deal. (Disclosure: Gizmodo and its sister sites are also represented by the WGAE.) Unionization squabbles notwithstanding, Gimlet’s transition from scrappy startup to tech giant subsidiary has been contentious at times, publicly and internally.
Following a card signing where an estimated 75-percent of staff supported the union drive, management attempted to exempt around 30 members from the unit, as well as demand a new vote. As of Friday, that revote took place, and the union still maintained majority support, albeit with slightly thinner ranks. The final unit is around 50 people.
“Management wanted to carve most senior producers, and all hosts, editors, reporters and senior reporters, out of the unit,” organizing committee member Rachel Ward wrote in a statement to Gizmodo. “We pushed back and ultimately won a unit that’s composed of associate producers, producers, reporters, and non-supervisory hosts, editors, and senior producers. Those are the folks who voted.”
In an internal email sent ahead of the revote, the union organizing committee claimed that in the process of demarcating the unit, Gimlet and Spotify management had agreed to create a defined management layer—something the company seemed to lack, according to conversations with staffers. However, the union claimed that management also “created new ‘supervisory’ titles [...] solely for the purpose of excluding [three individuals] from the unit” according to the email.
Still, as a condition of the successful revote management have agreed to bargain with the unit. “We look forward to a productive working relationship with the WGAE,” a Gimlet representative told Gizmodo. Spotify was not immediately available for comment.
As Gimlet Union moves into bargaining its first contract, they’ve released a set of agenda items they hope to formalize, including consistent job titles and pay, equitable contractor policies, and plans to diversify hiring, among other initiatives.
Gimlet’s successful union drive puts additional pressure on Kickstarter, another tech company where management has lagged on recognizing its staff’s request to organize. Update: A spokesperson told Gizmodo that “Kickstarter’s leadership hasn’t received any requests from the union organizers.”
“We welcome the storytellers at Gimlet to our community of creative professionals. Podcasts—both scripted and nonfiction—are an increasingly vital way to connect with audiences,” Lowell Peterson, executive director of the WGAE, told Gizmodo in a statement, “We look forward to working with the producers, [associate producers], and others in the bargaining unit to negotiate an agreement that addresses their needs and concerns.”