Employees at The Bay Citizen Form a Union

Development marks the first online news start-up to organize

New media workers aligned with old labor standards last night, as The Bay Citizen’s unionization got the official stamp of approval from the National Labor Relations Board.

Last week, the Pacific Media Workers Guild released a press release announcing the Bay Citizen as the first start-up news website to join its labor organization. At the time, two out of fourteen of the votes were being contested, but the Guild went forward with the announcement because they were certain that the votes, although unopened, would have rendered a result in their favor.

The Bay Citizen was founded in 2010 as a nonprofit news organization serving the San Francisco Bay Area. It has partnered with other media outlets, including an agreement to cover the Bay Area beat for The New York Times. In 2010 it picked up an award from the Society of Professional Journalists for its investigative reporting.

Aaron Glantz, a staff writer for The Bay Citizen, was a union member during his time at KPFA in Sacramento. He says with legacy media options dwindling, joining a union is a way of guaranteeing the reporters voice is heard during these times of rapidly changing media structures.

“There’s so many different ventures out there trying to, quote unquote, save journalism right now,” says Glantz. “What I appreciate is The Bay Citizen’s efforts to save journalism involves reporters doing reporting.”

For Glantz, this is an important opportunity to draft a contract for new media workers that can be used as an example by other start-ups if they make the same decision. “I’m really excited to get going on the next phase, and rather than will we or won’t we, asking how are we going to do this.”

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Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.