WGA East Strike Threat Looms On Monday, 300 Vox Media Staffers Sign Letter Pandemic-Shaming CEO Jim Bankoff

EXCLUSIVE: Gearing up for a potential strike on Monday, more than 300 Vox Media employees have signed an angry letter to their boss, CEO Jim Bankoff. They were pandemic-shaming him for asking for cost-of-living and 401(K) roll-backs in the media conglomerate’s ongoing contract talks with the WGA East.

“We’re absolutely ready to strike on Monday,” said a guild source. “We don’t want to, but we’re absolutely ready to.” The guild’s ruling body, the Council, unanimously authorized a strike on Tuesday, and the bargaining unit is scheduled to take a strike authorization vote as soon as Friday.

The letter comes in the wake of a “strike pledge” signed by 95% of the bargaining unit, which includes editors, writers, producers, reporters, podcasters, and other staffers who work for Vox, New York Magazine, The Verge, The Cut, Eater, Vulture, The Strategist, Polygon, SB Nation, Intelligencer, Curbed, Grub Street, Recode, Thrillist, Popsugar, The Dodo, NowThis, and Seeker.

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The letter, sent today, takes Bankoff to task for offering a worse cost-of-living increase than they got in their last contract, even though inflation is far higher now, and despite Bankoff’s having once pledged that he would “strive” to return to a 4% 401(k) company match “when we are confidently able to do so.” The letter notes that since then, Vox has been able to make two major acquisitions, buying up New York Magazine in one deal, and Group Nine Media in another.

Deadline reached out to Vox but has yet to receive a response. Here’s the letter:

Dear Jim,

We, the members of the Vox Media Union, write to express our dissatisfaction with the company’s position in our ongoing contract negotiations and urge you to reconsider on a number of important issues.

Management continues to insist our members accept worse terms on our annual cost of living adjustments than we agreed to in our first contract. This comes at a time of heightened financial hardship due to high inflation and rising cost of living expenses.

Management refuses to acknowledge the sacrifice its workers made when giving up contractually obligated raises in 2020 to help the company survive the pandemic, rejecting a retroactive raise or bonus. Vox management’s continued insistence on a ‘merit pool’ has been extremely upsetting and inappropriate in a collective bargaining agreement. A merit pool would only exacerbate existing inequalities – which is why the bargaining committee wholeheartedly rejected it in the first contract. And management continues to reject progressive salary minimums that set a fair floor for all employees.

Our members are angered and upset that management continues to insist on a lower 401(k) match than unit employees had before the pandemic. When those employees agreed to a lower 401(k) match in 2020, they did so in the spirit of the ‘shared sacrifice’ of hardship endured during the pandemic. Now, the company still refuses to return its match to the pre-pandemic level of 4% – despite the fact that in November 2020 you wrote that you would ‘strive to return to a 4% match when we are confidently able to do so.’ The confidence to make big acquisitions since then signals the company’s health is robust enough to return employees to the 4% match.

Our members are especially concerned by the company’s stances on these issues given Vox Media’s acquisition of New York Media and Group Nine Media, the combined company of which was expected to generate more than $700 million in revenue and $100 million in pretax profit this year. With that expected revenue, the terms we demand will not make or break the company’s profitability. What will jeopardize profitability is the company’s continued stance that our members, who have sacrificed so much to work tirelessly through a pandemic, accept worse terms than we previously had.

Our union has bargained creatively and in good faith. We have made tremendous moves toward management’s proposals. We believe that it is possible for the union and the company to come to an agreement. However, our members simply will not ratify a contract that doesn’t recognize their work, the sacrifices made in 2020 to help carry the company through a pandemic, the pernicious rate of inflation, and provide fair terms on minimum salaries and yearly increases.

We ask you to come to the table with an offer that respects our members’ contribution to the company’s bottom line so we can get back to doing what we do best: Making this company money.

Respectfully,
Vox Media Union

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