MTV News Staffers Cite Trump in Seeking to Unionize

According to the Writers Guild of America, East, the editorial staff of MTV News plans to unionize with WGAE, citing having to cover the Donald Trump administration as part of the reason.

WGAE cited a letter from the MTV News Unionizing Committee that said, in part: "Under the new Trump administration, we are acutely aware of how necessary our constitutional rights are, and how much we need legal protection."

President Donald Trump has called the news media "the opposition party" and various outlets "garbage," "failing" and "fake news" and threatened lawsuits and tightening libel laws as a candidate when he was criticized in the media.

"There has never been a more critically important time in our lives to have the protections of a union, especially for those of us in media," the committee wrote, according to WGAE. "And there’s never been a more necessary time for MTV News to talk about music, pop culture, and politics with the teenagers of America. We need to do more than just pay our respects to the past. We need a seat at the table so that we can be the future of MTV News.

"Because we deeply believe in the mission of MTV News and in the rights of the editors, writers, critics, reporters, producers, and correspondents who make up our team, the majority of us have collectively decided to organize a union with the Writers Guild of America, East.

“MTV News is an icon and its editorial staff speak to, and for, America's diverse and connected youth," said WGAE executive director Lowell Peterson. "In an age when independent voices are more essential than ever, we are heartened that these digital news creators recognize collective bargaining is the most effective way to protect those voices and to address critical issues like transparency in compensation and other policies, reasonable benefits for all, and an inclusive workplace.”

Among the issues the committee cites in the letter are healthcare for so-called "permalancers," long-term freelancers working without benefits, and the aforementioned legal protections. "In order for us to produce our best work, all writers, editors, reporters, and producers must be given proper protection against the threat of legal actions from politicians, pop stars, and other public figures. This includes but is not limited to the inclusion of mutual indemnification in the contracts of the entire editorial body," they said.

Also on the list was a more formal process for hiring diverse staffers, better communication with management and guidelines for salaries and severence.

MTV had no comment on the letter.

Earlier this week, staffers at The Huffington Post news website recently ratified their first collective bargaining agreement with WGAE, which said the vote was nearly unanimous.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.