MTV News staff votes to unionize under Writers Guild of America, East

Members of the editorial staff of MTV News, the youth-focused viral media division of MTV, have voted to unionize with the Writers Guild of America, East, the union announced on Friday.

New York-based MTV News said its editorial staff consists mostly of freelance contractors who currently are given a defined employment term of either three months, one year or two years, without benefits, healthcare or severance pay. 

“A minority of MTV News team members are considered staff, which comes with healthcare and benefits,” said the division’s union organizing committee in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.

The committee said that about 50 individuals from the editorial staff are eligible to be represented by the Writers Guild. It remains unclear how large the MTV New editorial staff is. MTV, which is owned by Viacom, declined to comment. 

“We don't have an exact count on the total size of the MTV News staff, so we would rather not comment on that,” the union organizing committee told the Times.

The committee said in a separate letter to staff members that it was seeking full healthcare and other benefits for employees. It also mentioned President Trump in its efforts to obtain legal protections afforded to journalists.  

“Under the new Trump administration, we are acutely aware of how necessary our constitutional rights are, and how much we need legal protection,” the letter stated. “In order for us to produce our best work, all writers, editors, reporters and producers must be given proper protection against the threat of legal actions from politicians, pop stars and other public figures.” 

More than 80% of MTV News’ editorial staff have signed cards electing the Writers Guild of America, East as their representative in collective bargaining, the union said in a release. The union represents writers in film, television, cable, digital media and broadcast news.

MTV News produces online videos and articles that are geared toward young audiences. Its editorial content focuses primarily on celebrity culture, entertainment, social justice and politics.

In December, it published an online video titled “2017 Resolutions for White Guys” in which a diverse cast of millennials proclaimed that “America was never great for anyone who wasn’t a white guy” and “’Blue Lives Matter’ isn’t a thing.” The video received a strong public backlash. MTV News subsequently pulled the video, but versions of it remain online.

david.ng@latimes.com

@DavidNgLAT


UPDATES:

2:08 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information provided by the MTV News Unionizing Committee.

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