MSNBC says it won't voluntarily recognize new union effort

Some 200-plus MSNBC workers are forming a union, but the network, known for its progressive politics, said it won’t recognize the effort until a majority of workers vote in a secret ballot election.

The MSNBC Union made the announcement Thursday that it was organizing to become a local chapter of the Writers Guild of America, East.

“We are the editorial staff of MSNBC and The Choice. Over 200 of us have signed a union petition to join the @wgaeast,” the group tweeted Thursday.

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“We know our contributions have earned us a seat at the table where we can advocate for a safe and fair workplace,” it also said in a joint statement with the Writers Guild of America, East announcement.

In a separate tweet, the group called on executives of the network to voluntarily recognize the new chapter.

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MSNBC anchors Chris Hayes and Joy-Ann Reid took to Twitter to publicly support the union.

MSNBC President Rashida Jones said in a statement that she respected her employees’ decision to organize, but that MSNBC won’t recognize the union unless employees vote for it in a National Labor Relations Board-supervised secret ballot election.

“I believe our employees should be able to make such an important decision through a standard election process,” Jones wrote.

“It is important to give everyone who would be included the chance to understand what this would mean before making their choice,” she added.

In response to Jones’s call for an election, the union said MSNBC should "follow its own progressive principles." 

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“MSNBC needs to follow its own progressive principles and honor the decision made by its editorial employees to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East,” said Lowell Peterson, the union's executive director.

"These are smart, engaged people who came to their decision after months of informed conversations, and a super-majority declared their support publicly by signing a petition. We urge management to correct its course and recognize the union voluntarily, promptly,” he added.

Unions have long criticized requests for NLRB secret ballot elections as being designed to give management opportunities to dissuade employees from joining the union.

In April, The New York Times also called for a secret ballot election when its technology workers announced they were unionizing, even though the paper already recognizes the union that represents 1,300 of its editorial and business staffers.

The NewsGuild of New York said the paper's call for an election, along with other actions, amounted to a union-busting campaign.

“My colleagues and I are disappointed to see Times management engage in the very same anti-union tactics our own journalism decries,” said Kathy Zhang, a member of the tech union’s organizing committee, said in a statement.

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The MSNBC union campaign is the latest in a wave of similar efforts by media workers this year.

On Wednesday, the union representing workers at The New Yorker, Pitchfork and Ars Technica reached a deal with media company Condé Nast after union members voted for a strike earlier in the year.

Last week, the NewsGuild said employees at the Southern California News Group were forming a union. The group, which is owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital, runs the Los Angeles Daily News, The Orange County Register and several other newspapers in Southern California.

Updated 7:02 p.m.