Update as of 11:35 a.m. EDT: Al Jazeera America told IBTimes, "We are currently considering the request to voluntarily recognize the NewsGuild as the exclusive bargaining representative of the digital department employees. We have no further comment at this time.”
Al Jazeera America's digital side is the next domino to fall in the burgeoning movement of unionization in digital media, announcing Thursday morning it had petitioned to unionize.
"As we enter our third year in the public eye, a troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress have persisted at AJAM Digital," the staff wrote in a mission statement released Thursday morning. "Discrepancies in salaries, responsibilities and the way job performance is evaluated undermine our work and the harmony of our workplace."
"We believe Al Jazeera America can do better. We call upon Al Jazeera's leaders to uphold its mission, not just to its audience but also to its employees," the statement added.
AJAM have signed on with the News Guild of New York, which has worked to organize digital journalists at The New York Times, Reuters, and The Daily Beast.
The statement asked for a union to be recognized and for management to enter into a "constructive, amicable collective bargaining process."
The move comes after other newsrooms have won recognition from organizing, including Gawker, Vice Media and Salon.com, which International Business Times reported carried on a monthlong standoff with employees before it finally recognized the union.
"By organizing, we've had the chance to more fully realize the value and excellence of our newsroom — something we're all committed to improving," said Caroline Preston, digital editor at AJAM.
Employees complain about pay discrepancies, lack of communication between labor and management and uncertainity about the direction of the site as a whole. Some recent meetings have floated ideas to turn the shop, which prides itself on an analytical gloss over its hard news reporting, into a more conventional breaking news operation that would require more posts from an already-small digital staff.
Staff in New York is in the process of moving offices.
AJAM has suffered several high-profile hangups at the 3-year-old news venture: ex-CEO Ehab Al Shihabi unceremoniously departed in May while top female executives have left the company to file lawsuits alleging discrimination.
"We’re excited to welcome the digital staff at Al Jazeera America to the Guild,” said Peter Szekely, President of the News Guild of New York. “For more than 80 years, the Guild has helped thousands of journalists and media workers translate their workplace concerns into real-life solutions. We’re ready to apply that knowledge and experience to our newest members at Al Jazeera America."
Read the full statement:
All of us at Al Jazeera America believe in a shared mission: delivering quality, cutting-edge journalism; going deeper and amplifying the voice of the voiceless. We are proud to have helped build a vibrant and essential piece of one of the most respected media networks in the world.
Across our industry, journalists at some of the web's premier media establishments are choosing union representation. And now, the employees of Al Jazeera America Digital are joining them.
We want to work with Al Jazeera management in a spirit of honesty, integrity and transparency — both to produce the news and to improve the workplace in which we produce it.
We who are tasked with communicating the voice of the voiceless must retain a voice ourselves. The smart, creative, award-winning people who commit to this mission need to work in an environment that respects their efforts. We want our newsroom to exemplify the best practices of a modern, humane workplace that values diversity, equality and fairness.
As we enter our third year in the public eye, a troubling lack of transparency, inconsistent management and lack of clear redress have persisted at AJAM Digital. Discrepancies in salaries, responsibilities and the way job performance is evaluated undermine our work and the harmony of our workplace.
We believe Al Jazeera America can do better. We call upon Al Jazeera's leaders to uphold its mission, not just to its audience but also to its employees.
By addressing institutional issues collectively, we can better resolve problems when they arise, do our jobs with dignity and achieve a measure of security that fosters world-class journalism.
That is why we are forming a union with the News Guild of New York, part of the Communications Workers of America. It has a long history of representing journalists, including digital journalists at The New York Times, Reuters, The Daily Beast and elsewhere.
We ask that Al Jazeera management recognize our choice and enter into a constructive, amicable collective bargaining process with us.