As BuzzFeed prepares to go public in the coming days, a move that could mean millions of dollars for its early investors and some current and former staff members, not everyone at the company was cheering.
On Thursday, union employees at the company’s Pulitzer Prize-winning news division, BuzzFeed News, announced that they were “walking off the job for one day” in an effort to speed contract negotiations. All 61 of the workers who belong to the BuzzFeed News Union, which includes reporters, editors, photographers and designers, are taking part in the daylong work stoppage, the union said.
The walkout comes on a big day for the 15-year-old digital media company: BuzzFeed’s shareholders were scheduled to vote Thursday on a long-in-the-works plan to take the company public by merging it with a so-called blank check company, 890 5th Avenue Partners, a deal that was announced in June.
The company is targeting a valuation of $1.5 billion. If the plan wins shareholder approval, BuzzFeed could make its stock market debut as soon as Monday, under the ticker symbol BZFD.
In a statement, the union accused the company of refusing to budge in contract negotiations. The main sticking point is pay. The union said BuzzFeed was proposing a 1 percent guaranteed annual wage increase and a minimum salary of $50,000.
“We deserve a strong contract that protects us and ensures a fair and equitable workplace for everyone in our unit,” Katie Notopoulos, a senior tech reporter, said in the statement.
A BuzzFeed spokesman said the company would be back at the negotiating table soon.
“There’s a bargaining session planned for next Tuesday where we hope the union will present a response on these issues,” a BuzzFeed spokesman said.
The union, which formed in February 2019, is represented by the NewsGuild, which also represents workers at The New York Times and other media outlets. The union and the company have yet to agree on a first contract.