Why writer of the Onion, A.V. Membership is battling WGA, East

Music artist Sudan Archives performs onstage on the Onion / A.V. Membership showcase throughout SXSW in 2018. The A.V. Membership started in 1993 as an leisure web site overlaying movie, TV, music and video games. (Diego Donamaria / Getty Pictures for SXSW)

Katie Rife, a senior author for leisure website the A.V. Membership, was working previous midnight on a assessment final week when her good friend despatched her a textual content. It was a posting for her job.

Rife was mulling over a suggestion by her employer to relocate from Chicago to Los Angeles and nonetheless had 9 days earlier than the Jan. 15 deadline to make her determination.

“At first I used to be like, ‘Is that this a mistake?'” Rife, 38, stated. “That’s one thing that I’ve by no means skilled in my skilled profession … and I gotta say it was fairly disheartening.”

A number of different of Rife’s colleagues complained of comparable remedy, sparking a dispute between her union and employer, New York-based G/O Media, which additionally owns the satirical information website the Onion and the tech information website Gizmodo.

G/O Media has stated that it has no intention of changing the employees and that the posting was for contingency planning.

“This relocation will carry the A.V. Membership nearer to the business it covers, permitting the positioning to develop its leisure relationships whereas offering extra entry to necessary occasions and expertise,” stated Mark Neschis, a spokesman for G/O Media.

It is the most recent amongst a collection of clashes between the Writers Guild of America, East and G/O Media over cost-cutting and editorial adjustments at a number of digital websites the corporate has acquired, together with Jezebel, the Root and Gizmodo. The union final yr filed two unfair labor apply complaints with the Nationwide Labor Relations Board in opposition to G/O Media, alleging a Gizmodo worker was terminated for union exercise.

The WGA, East has moved aggressively in recent times to prepare digital media websites, a few of which have struggled with shifting enterprise fashions and rising strain from buyers to chop prices.

“The sample appears to be that they suppose the model is the letters that precede ‘.com,’ as an alternative of the model being that folks really create the content material, and I believe it is a dangerous technique,” Lowell Peterson, govt director for WGA, East, stated of G/O Media. “I do not personal the corporate, however I can let you know, that is not how readership works. That is not how viewership works in tv or on-line video. The worth is the individuals who craft the tales.”

The A.V. Membership started within the Nineties as a sister publication to the Onion. The A.V. Membership stands for “audiovisual,” an allusion to highschool audiovisual golf equipment whose members are deeply educated, in keeping with its web site.

“We’re proud to hold on the custom of individuals immersed in popular culture and leisure media to a considerably obsessive diploma,” the web site stated.

However the website’s mission has been clouded by the labor dispute.

Rife and 6 different workers of the A.V. Membership — about half of its employees — have been advised on Dec. 2 that their jobs can be relocated to Los Angeles, enabling writers to be nearer to their topics.

Union officers contend the transfer was actually a ploy to interchange the employees. They are saying that earlier than they may make up their minds, three of the employees discovered that their positions had already been posted. The corporate was prepared to reimburse $5,000 in shifting bills however wouldn’t present value of residing changes to wages, in keeping with the Onion Inc. Union, which is represented by the WGA, East.

“It is disappointing that this provide to maneuver to L.A. has not include a price of residing adjustment or any wage improve in any respect,” stated Laura Adamczyk, co-chair of the Onion Inc. Union and an affiliate editor on the A.V. Membership. “In the event that they actually valued these employees and needed to maintain them, they’d pay them what they want and deserve. It appears like they need to power these employees out.”

G/O Media is working inside the confines of its collective bargaining settlement with the union and posted the roles as a preemptive measure in case workers selected to not relocate, Neschis stated, including that the transfer was deliberate two years in the past however was delayed by the pandemic.

If the affected Chicago workers select to relocate, they are going to be assured their jobs in L.A., he added.

Rife, who has been a full-time staffer on the A.V. Membership since 2014, estimates the transfer to California may improve her lease by 40%, and she or he’s nonetheless not sure about shifting. In accordance with the union’s contract, senior writers earn a minimal of $60,000.

“I like L.A. and I might be comfortable to reside there and work there,” Rife stated. “However the nearer you have a look at the deal we have been provided, the much less sense it makes and the much less doable it appears to tug it off.”

G/O Media was fashioned in 2019 as a part of personal fairness agency Nice Hill Companions’ acquisition of Gizmodo Media Group and the Onion from Univision.

By way of that acquisition, G/O Media acquired properties together with Jezebel, a website that covers fashionable ladies’s pursuits; and the Root, which highlights content material about Black tradition. Phrases of the deal weren’t disclosed.

WGA, East stated that over the past yr, a good portion of employees at Jezebel and the Root have exited amid issues about adjustments in editorial path. Final yr, seven workers left the Roo and 6 staffers left Jezebel, the union stated.

Moreover, employees at sports activities information publication Deadspin resigned in 2019 after an editorial director despatched a memo telling staffers who write about sports activities in addition to tradition and different subjects to concentrate on sports-related subjects.

G/O Media stated that when it bought the websites they have been dropping cash and now they’re “solidly worthwhile.”

“The corporate turned over just about the entire editor in chief positions prior to now yr,” the corporate stated. “When there may be this sort of transition, there may be inevitably employees turnover, which is not any totally different than most different media firms. These administration choices have arrange the corporate for future success.”

The A.V. Membership’s editor in chief, Scott Robson, started in September and is predicated in L.A. Robson was beforehand editor in chief on the Los Angeles Enterprise Journal.

G/O Media plans to ascertain the A.V. Membership’s new headquarters in L.A. early this yr.

This story initially appeared in Los Angeles Instances.