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Vice Media is the second big digital publisher to unionize

The agreement is expected to be finalized next week.

FilmMagic via Getty

When Gawker Media editorial workers successfully reached a contract agreement at the end of February, staffer Hamilton Nolan told Re/code that part of the goal of unionizing at all was to empower people at other digital media shops to do the same.

Nolan might be getting his wish. Today, Vice Media and the Writer’s Guild of America, East announced that the two sides had reached a tentative agreement on a contract. The WGA East is the union that represents both Gawker Media staffers and Vice writers. WGA East spokesperson Jason Gordon said the contract is expected to be formalized in a vote early next week.

The Vice deal will only affect writers on the digital side of things, which is about 70 people. When that group voted to unionize last August, the Wall Street Journal said that the staffers involved at the time made up “less than 10 percent” of Vice’s 700 U.S. employees.

According to the statement announcing the deal, Vice writers negotiated a 29 percent pay increase over three years, health insurance benefits, guaranteed severance pay and “a commitment to meet on a monthly basis to discuss workplace issues.” Gordon declined to go beyond the few details given already, saying that more information would be made available next week.

When reached for comment, a representative for Vice gave Re/code the following statement:

We’re obviously glad we reached a deal. Vice has grown leaps and bounds in recent years to develop extensive benefits for all employees, which is why we’ve introduced an equity program, paid family leave, and tuition reimbursement among others. This is just the latest.

The significance of this union agreement isn’t in how it will affect Vice Media’s bottom line. Instead, focus on the broader trend of unionizing efforts across digital media. Gawker’s unionized workers negotiated their own deal, and Huffington Post writers are still in talks with management at AOL (which owns the site).

But those are places where things are, for now, pretty stable. Various people working in newsrooms that are in the process of unionizing (or have already negotiated a contract) have told Re/code that a big part of their interest in forming a union is to get some protection for employees when things go south.

Before it was shut down, Al Jazeera America was also a union shop, which one former staffer later tweeted “really made getting laid off less horrible than it could have been.”

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