We have covered the recent trend of organizing among media companies over the last few years. This story of the first podcast company joining this wave has some interesting implications.
First, Gimlet, which was recently acquired by Spotify, is now considered a cross between a tech company and a media company, and tech companies have been notoriously resistant to organizing.
More significantly, the usual reasons for organizing didn’t seem to play as motivators in this case. Instead, the desire to be unionized appears to stem more from “principle” and any specific disenchantment with how employees have been treated. To quote from the article:
It would be imprecise, in my view, to interpret this organizing campaign as a consortium of Gimlet workers seeking targeted remedies for specific problems or structural inequalities (e.g. a system of “perma-lancers,” etc.) that company leadership had persistently failed to solve. It’s my understanding that Gimlet generally delivers above-average conditions and policies to its workers, and that it will continue to do so under the governance of its new Swedish overlords at Spotify. Plus, as Ward told me, Gimlet management has been fairly responsive to change requests in the past, having moved quickly on things like reducing dependency on less-protected contractors.
But that isn’t really the point of this push. By default, a workplace without a union often operates on a cultural assumption that employees should “trust” management to look out for their interests — which, you know, isn’t always going to be the case. Things change, managers change, business contexts change; so too, then, can the relationship between a given generation of management and staffers. Establishing a union, then, is a step toward introducing more structural protections should business conditions put management in less-forgiving positions. And given the volatile nature of the media industry these days, coupled with the general emergent nature of podcasting as a young business, it’s certainly possible that the good times at Gimlet could turn real quick.
As Eric Eddings, co-host of The Nod, told BuzzFeed News: ‘A lot of the benefits we were hoping Gimlet would codify and put in a contract, Spotify offers those benefits and then some. They’re often a little more generous in that particular area, but the same concerns we had still exist…It is a complicated field, and it’s a new field, and it’s moving really, really fast. And so it became immediately clear to a lot of the employees that we need to have a voice in that process.’
This is a novel argument – unionization as a kind of “insurance” against potential future problems – especially when the workforce already enjoys a generally positive relationship with management.