CNET journalists in the US are pushing to unionise, seeking a formal say on issues including the use of artificial intelligence at the technology news company.
Pro-union employees, who are organising with the Writers Guild of America East, said they’ve signed up the vast majority of their co-workers. The union seeks to represent about 100 writers, editors, video producers and other content creators.
The employees are asking management to recognise voluntarily and negotiate with the guild.
“Our diverse content teams need industry-standard job protections, fair compensation, editorial independence and a voice in the decision-making process, especially as automated technology threatens our jobs and reputations,” they said in a mission statement sent to management on Tuesday.
CNET’s owner, Red Ventures, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. It acquired the business for US$500-million from ViacomCBS, now called Paramount Global, in a deal announced in September 2020.
CNET has generated controversy in recent months over its use of AI to write articles. Management told employees in January it would pause AI-authored stories, according to the Verge, which reported staff had been left in the dark about the scope of the practice, including which articles were written by humans or by robots.
“A union would give us a voice on new AI and marketing initiatives and allow us to safeguard our workloads, bylines and careers,” the employees said in the statement.
When a majority of employees at a work site sign up to unionise in the US, a company can voluntarily recognise and negotiate with the labour group or refuse to do so unless the union first prevails in a government-run election.
The process of determining who should be eligible to vote in an election can take weeks or months, and companies often use that time to fight organising efforts.
The news media have been swept by union organising over the past decade, spurred in part by journalists seeking greater job security in a convulsive industry.
The Guild represents staffers at Vox Media, Gizmodo Media Group and HuffPost. The union also represents striking TV and movie writers who are also seeking protections against having their work upended by AI.
Employees at CNET have seen workers at other outlets unionise and gain protections that they don’t have, including job security and a voice in workplace decisions, said Mike Sorrentino, a CNET senior editor and member of the union’s organising committee.
“The AI issue was one of several incidents during our time at Red Ventures that showed that these protections are not just a nice to have but an essential thing,” Sorrentino said. — Josh Eidelson, (c) 2023 Bloomberg LP