After a long road, the Ringer Union has ratified a collective bargaining agreement with their corporate management at Spotify.
The WGA East announced the news today, with details of the union’s agreement.
Among some of the guarantees won by the union:
- Significant increases to salary minimums, with The Ringer establishing $57,000 plus overtime as an entry-level floor[.]
- Establishment of new senior titles.
- Limitations on the use of contractors within bargaining unit positions. Contractors must either be offered a full-time job after 10 months, or the companies must inform them 30 days in advance that there will not be a position available for them.
- Minimum of 2% guaranteed annual increases.
- Minimum severance of 11 weeks for all employees, regardless of tenure.
- Spotify benefits, with no change in benefits for the duration of the contract.
- Editorial standards that guarantee that the company will not modify or fail to publish content based on the direction of advertisers, and that bargaining unit employees will not be required to work on advertising and branded content.
- Funding for Diversity Committees, with representatives from both management and the bargaining unit.
- Language guaranteeing that 50% of candidates for open unit positions who make it to the stage after the phone interview will be from traditionally under-represented groups (BIPOC, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, military veterans).
- Elimination of post-employment non-compete agreements for all employees who make under $155,000, and removal of post-employment non-competes in individual agreements.
- Formation of a Labor Management Committee.
- Just cause and union security.
These are big steps for the union. Working in digital media is never exactly a secure position, and the volatility has certainly not decreased over the last year or two. The union does still hope to add more benefits to its members, especially in the area of intellectual property.
Notably missing from the contract, however, is any clause about intellectual property, a sticking point that union members tweeted about and said was a difficult agreement to reach. The union members wanted to own their work and control what happened to it after its creation. This would also mean profiting from that work and sharing in the revenue.
“As it stands, that is where we are — we do not have control over intellectual property in our contract, we do not have control over derivative works in our contract,” says Dan Devine, a staff writer at The Ringer. “That’s certainly something to keep working on as we go forward and other media shops do as well.”
Of course, intellectual property was always something Spotify would be hard-pressed to cede control or revenue over. It’s a big part of its podcast strategy — building shows that could be turned into movies or TV shows in the future. Other WGAE contracts, including Vox Media’s, do account for IP. Vox’s, for example, pays union members up to $100,000 in some instances for derivative works based on their reporting.
The Ringer moved to unionize back in 2019. That was followed shortly by management changing hands, with Spotify paying nearly $200 million in early 2020. Since then, their battle for a CBA has included a coordinated social media campaign last fall, along with issuing critical statements during a few difficult moments for The Ringer last year.