UPDATE—Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2:55 pm: Al Jazeera America digital news staff have officially won their union election, by a vote of 32 to 5, according to today’s announcement of last week’s NLRB vote. AJAM management have agreed to recognize the union, stating that “we respect the decision they have reached through this democratic vote” and “look forward to concluding a collective bargaining agreement.” The management has furthermore agreed not to contest the inclusion of nine additional members of the collective bargaining unit.
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This week at Al Jazeera America, the US wing of the Qatar-based media empire, the big story will -be the digital editorial staff’s official union election. Digital staffers started casting their ballots last week, and the votes will be formally tallied on Tuesday.
Media buzz has been hovering over the New York–based digital newsroom since it announced its organizing drive last month. AJAM management has generally refrained from commenting on the unionization effort in detail, however, aside from issuing statements to staff and the press acknowledging the vote and agreeing to respect the process.
Yet if AJAM executives had wanted to keep its labor relations out of the spotlight, it could have just voluntarily recognized the unionization of the approximately 50 digital staffers weeks ago, rather than triggering a formal secret-ballot process under the oversight of the National Labor Relations Board.
For news editor Gregg Levine, the unionization is a done deal; the boss is just catching up. After months of organizing and signing cards to join NewsGuild (which was the initial demonstration of majority support the workers had presented earlier, but which executives did not officially recognize), he and the other staff “believe that there’s no chance anything but our victory will be confirmed on Tuesday. The union has overwhelming support in the office.”
AJAM is set to join a flurry of digital outlets that have have gone union this year, though the only one not to attain voluntary recognition. ThinkProgress, Salon, Vice, and Gawker have organized with Writers of America East (WGAE). The Guardian recently unionized under New York NewsGuild. (The unions do not appear to be directly competing for industry turf, however.)