NewsGuild Seeks to Organize Law360 Editorial Staffers

Daily Labor Report® is the objective resource the nation’s foremost labor and employment professionals read and rely on, providing reliable, analytical coverage of top labor and employment...

By Tyrone Richardson

July 19 — The NewsGuild of New York is seeking to organize about 130 editorial staffers at Law360, in an effort to improve stagnant wages and quotas on daily stories at the subscription-based legal news site, the union announced.

The New York union, which is the largest U.S. local in the NewsGuild, said July 19 an “overwhelming majority” of about 130 reporters, editors, news assistants and apprentices at Law360 across the U.S. have signed a petition asking for Guild representation.

The staffers are asking management to voluntarily recognize their union and bypass the traditional method of a secret-ballot representation election conducted by the National Labor Relations Board, the Guild said. The Guild is associated with the Communications Workers of America.

Chris Giganti, a spokesman for Law360, didn't respond to Bloomberg BNA's request for comment July 19.

Digital Newsroom Organizing Campaign

The effort at Law360 adds to a movement to organize workers in digital newsrooms across the country.

Unions such as the NewsGuild and the Writers Guild of America East have been seeking to organize workers at new media organizations across the country. Union officials have told Bloomberg BNA that digital-only publications are largely staffed with young personnel who are seeking higher wages and a voice in the decision-making process.

Based in New York, Law 360 was founded in 2003. The company is owned by New York-based Portfolio Media Inc., which was acquired by LexisNexis in 2012. Law360 has journalists stationed in 20 cities in the country, producing digital content for 50 different sections and newsletters, according to its website.

The Guild's statement July 19 also included comments from the Law360 organizing committee, which highlighted some shortcomings at the company.

“We are proud of the work we do at Law360,” the organizing committee said in the statement. “We want to see the company continue to grow and thrive, and we believe we deserve to grow and thrive with it. As editorial staffers, we deserve to have our contributions recognized and to have a voice in the newsroom. The only way for that to happen is for us to organize collectively.”

Addressing Employee Concerns

The request for recognition comes weeks after Law360 management reached a settlement with New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to end its practice of requiring all editorial employees to sign noncompetition agreements.

Enforcement of the workplace policy is part of what spurred organizing efforts at Law360, the Guild said.

The Guild said Law360 has been a “fast-growing publisher” of legal news, but said workplace conditions are lackluster.

“Despite the company's growth, employee compensation lags behind competitors, and editorial staffers have questioned Law360's overtime practices, strict story quotas and a general lack of transparency in the workplace,” according to the statement.

Other Digital Newsrooms Organized

The effort to organize Law360 comes a few months after 99 WGAE-represented editorial staffers at Gawker Media LLC ratified a first contract, a move that industry observers told Bloomberg BNA would set a tone for digital newsrooms and spur more successful organizing.

The deal, ratified March 1, includes a grievance process, minimum annual pay starting at $50,000, and a 9 percent annual pay increase over the three-year contract term.

In addition to Gawker, the WGAE has successfully organized digital newsrooms such as Salon Media, Huffington Post and Vice Media.

As for the NewsGuild of New York, the union October 2015 won an NLRB election to represent about 50 editorial staffers at Al Jazeera America, which later ceased operations in April.

The local also represents about 3,000 journalists and other employees at New York area-based news organizations such as the New York Times, Reuters and the Daily Beast, union officials have said.

Bloomberg BNA, a wholly owned subsidiary of Bloomberg LP, is one of Law360's competitors. Bloomberg BNA has editorial staffers represented by the Washington-Baltimore NewsGuild, Local 32035 of the NewsGuild.

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

Copyright © 2016 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.