Credit: The Ringer Union

With its current contract expiring next year, the Ringer Union announced that it has opened up negotiations with The Ringer and its parent company, Spotify, regarding a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

“Long time no talk! Last week, we headed back to the bargaining table with Spotify and The Ringer,” the union wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “We’re looking forward to winning a fair contract for all our members over the coming weeks.”

It will be interesting to see what shape this round of negotiations takes following the messy lead up to The Ringer’s first CBA, ratified in April 2021. After employees first organized in August 2019, the two sides engaged in seemingly hostile- and often public- negotiations for more than a year, highlighted by the company’s lack of diversity against the backdrop of the George Floyd protests in the summer of 2020.

At one point, Bill Simmons — who founded the company in 2016 and sold it to Spotify in 2020 — famously responded to criticism that his The Ringer podcasts didn’t feature enough diverse voices by telling The New York Times, “It’s a business. This isn’t Open Mic Night.”

Simmons, well known for having his friends and family members (including his dad and kids) on his podcasts, received no shortage of backlash for the comment, including from the Ringer Union. Following the episode and multiple social media campaigns organized by the union, the two sides negotiated for the better part of the following year before reaching an agreement on a three-year CBA that included the following guarantees:

  • 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.

In addition to their previous round of contentious negotiations, it will be interesting to see what role the state of Spotify plays in talks. The audio streamer has had three rounds of layoffs over the past year, including a round that affected 1,500 employees earlier this month.

[Ringer Union on X]

About Ben Axelrod

Ben Axelrod is a veteran of the sports media landscape, having most recently worked for NBC's Cleveland affiliate, WKYC. Prior to his time in Cleveland, he covered Ohio State football and the Big Ten for outlets including Cox Media Group, Bleacher Report, Scout and Rivals.