Union Urges Gawker Auction Bidders to Assume Labor Contract

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By Tyrone Richardson

Aug. 9 — The Writers Guild of America East urged auction bidders for bankrupt Gawker Media LLC to accept a labor contract covering editorial staffers at the news organization ( Gawker Media, LLC, Bankr. S.D.N.Y., No. 1:16-bk-11700, 8/9/16 ).

The WGAE is seeking the “assignment and assumption” of the three-year collective bargaining agreement covering 99 Gawker staffers by those looking to buy the company, according to a document filed Aug. 9 in federal bankruptcy court in New York.

The filing also included a written statement from Gawker staffers, saying, “We have no desire or inclination to work under terms other than our existing union contract.”

The Gawker labor contract was the WGAE's first successful CBA in its campaign to organize thousands of digital journalists along the East Coast and address issues such as increasing wages and improving workplace standards.

The New York-based Gawker June 10 filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection and put itself up for sale, days after losing a $140 million invasion-of-privacy lawsuit brought by former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan.

Bidder Seeks Deal ‘Free and Clear' of Liabilities

Media company Ziff Davis, owner of publications such as PC Magazine and Geek.com, has since made a $90 million “stalking-horse bid” for Gawker. The bid seeks a judge's approval to purchase Gawker's assets “free and clear” of liabilities.

That option means “free and clear of any and all liens, claims, interests and encumbrances (except for Assumed Liabilities) in accordance with section 363(f) of the Bankruptcy Code,” according to the bid.

A spokeswoman for Ziff Davis declined to comment about the case when reached by Bloomberg BNA Aug. 9.

The official auction will take place Aug. 16, according to court records.

As for the staffers at Gawker, the letter included with the Aug. 9 court filing added that workers were seeking a new owner that will keep the CBA intact.

“We wish to state as clearly as possible that it would be a profound mistake for any buyer to try to alter or renegotiate the terms of our contract in any way,” according to the letter. “We know that this message has been communicated to all potential buyers, and we trust that they will take it to heart in order to maintain a happy, productive, and functional workplace.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tyrone Richardson in Washington at trichardson@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

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