Buzzfeed News' union contract includes legal protections against ghosts

On May 6, 2022, the union representing writers from Buzzfeed News ratified a contract with their parent company. Hooray! That's good news.

Better news is that Buzzfeed News is — as far as I'm aware — the only media union that includes legal protection against ghosts.

(Full disclosure: I am a member of the Wirecutter Union, which is represented by NewsGuild; Ben Dictor, who tweeted the above, also provided legal counsel to the Wirecutter Union.)

A recent piece in Poynter explains the genesis of this, uhh, curious legal detail:

Those negotiations took place in summer 2020 at a time when reporters faced violence from police while covering Black Lives Matter protests and COVID-19 made working in person unsafe. The union wanted to ensure that employees had the right to turn down dangerous assignments and work remotely if they did not feel safe in the office.

But when the staffers submitted their original proposal detailing potential hazardous conditions (sans ghosts), they faced ridicule from BuzzFeed management and legal, who accused them of trying to get out of work, according to Baird. (A BuzzFeed spokesperson denied this allegation, calling it "wholly, factually inaccurate.")

"We were kind of annoyed with them making fun of us for these really realistic and important things, and we wanted to hold on this language because we felt it was important," Baird said. "We figured we would just sort of test them to see if they were really actually thinking about the specifics of each of these things and the realities of each of these things."

So they slipped the word "ghosts" into the list of hazardous circumstances. When BuzzFeed's lawyer noticed, everyone burst into laughter, and both sides agreed to just leave it in there, Baird said.

I love this so much. Not just because it's the exploited editorial staff of a media company unionizing (which I'm all about), but because of the levels here. Is it trolling? I mean yeah sort of. But it was trolling for a purpose. And it worked. To the point that even the opposing lawyer laughed, and briefly dropped the grueling performative pretense of union negotiations — and jaysis, the performative pretense of those negotiations are quite gruelling — and yet Buzzfeed's lawyer still said yeah okay fine.

My only complaint is that, while I obviously wish no harm on the Buzzfeed News staff (they do awesome work!), a small part of me now wants them to deal with a legitimate haunting, just because it'd be wild to see this play out in court.

Here's why the BuzzFeed News Union's contract includes protections from ghosts [Angela Fu / Poynter]

Image: Public Domain via PxHere