Thrillist editors and video staff send strike message by Slack

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Credit: Illustration by Ad Age

Office-based social messaging platform Slack apparently is helping transform more than watercooler talk--it's also changing how workers unite.

On Monday, editorial and video staff at Thrillist set their Slack statuses to "strike." The Thrillist Union initiated the work stoppage to fight for a new contract.

"We all changed our Slack statuses collectively to say that we're taking action," says Leanne Butkovic, Thrillist entertainment editor and union representative.

Management proceeded to lock the employees out of their Slack accounts and email.

The Thrillist workers have been negotiating a union contract for more than a year, and have been frustrated by the lack of progress, Butkovic says. They're demanding minimum salaries for all employees of $50,000 and guaranteed yearly raises.

So far, the company has presented a contract offer with minimum salaries of $40,500 and a raise structure that was not fully guaranteed, Butkovic says.

"There's this chasm between us and management," she says. "We're tired of hearing the same lines over and over again."

Of the 61 members of the Thrillist Union, only six went to work on Monday. The rest of the union met at the Writers Guild of America East offices in New York, where 91 percent voted to authorize a strike if needed, Butkovic says.

However, negotiations are expected to continue in September, and the union workers were set to go back to the office on Tuesday, Butkovic says. They had their Slack privileges returned by the end of the day on Monday.

Thrillist did not respond to a request for comment. Founded by CEO Ben Lerer, the site about eating, drinking and travel is part of Group Nine Media, which includes digital properties The Dodo, NowThis, Seeker and Jash. (UPDATE: "We support our employees' decision to organize and have been working with them in good faith to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement," Group Nine Media said in a statement provided by a spokeswoman. "We are absolutely committed to the growth and success of all of our employees and we look forward to resolving any outstanding issues and finalizing a contract at the negotiating table as soon as they are ready.")

The Dodo, which creates viral videos and digital shows for animal lovers, also unionized, but negotiates separately and was not part of the work stoppage, according to Butkovic. The Dodo's union did express support on Twitter, and its leaders met with people at the Thrillist Union on Monday, Butkovic says.

Thrillist workers are not alone in their unionizing efforts in media. Employees at Huffington Post, The New Yorker, Fast Company, Slate, Vox and others have recently taken the worker solidarity route.

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