Tips on how to successfully strike a gaming website

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photo: kotaku

So that just happened.

You probably saw that kotaku and five of its sister publications, all owned by G/O Media, went on strike last Tuesday, March 1st. This week we returned. It’s great to be back.

It was quite an experience to strike for a better contract and thanks to my membership of the union bargaining committee I got a front row seat.

Two years ago I would not have known what a negotiating committee is. I was certainly pro-union, but I never had the opportunity to actually be in a union, to see one in action, until I joined kotaku.

But even then I didn’t really get it. the Gizmodo Media Group Unionorganized by The Writers Guild of America, Easttook a small fee from every paycheck and I was invited to a special union only slack.

Not much seemed to be happening there. I got the impression that some colleagues didn’t even check it regularly. More often than not, it became a place to say goodbye to loved ones when they left the company, an alarmingly common phenomenon over the past two years. It was hard to blame them: the working conditions at G/O Media often felt difficult, and the pastures seemed much greener elsewhere.

But Union Slack has slowly woken up from its slumber in recent months. The contract governing our releases’ relationship with G/O Media was supposed to expire on February 28th, you see. And that’s where the negotiation committee came in.

Two strikers walk along the picket line outside an office building with placards.

Beating on the sidewalk day after day is a tiring but essential part of a strike. Featured here are social media specialist Jeb Biggart and earlier kotaku Editor Riley McLeod.
photo: kotaku

The task of the committee was to find out what rights and protections we, that means all members of the GMG Union, wanted to enshrine in a new treaty that would hopefully come into force on March 1st. (Check out the GMG Union website archived front page to see where we ended up.) And then – under the expert guidance of an experienced Writers Guild negotiator and our Writers Guild business agent – we actually had to negotiate with representatives from G/O Media who represent the interests of the company would issue a final contract that both sides could agree to.

Without going into details, the talks did not result in an agreement before the deadline. Time was ticking and we saw no evidence that granting an extension would encourage the company to be more generous. So the union voted to go on strike starting March 1st.

I and two other members of the negotiation committee gladly accepted the union’s offer to take us from our home states to New York so that we could better participate in the strike and hopefully in future negotiations.

come tuesday kotakuThe front page of was dead because we stopped producing content. (We asked readers to also stop visiting to avoid crossing a digital picket line.) But if you were on the street outside G/O HQ near the Times Square, you would have seen a noisy crowd kotaku, Jezebel, The root, gizmodo, life hackerand jalopnik Employees – no, workers – make hell and spread their demands to the world through direct action.

A woman in winter clothing smiles while speaking from behind a podium as a crowd looks on.

kotaku Editor Lisa Marie Segarra spoke at the March 4 rally. WGAE CEO Lowell Peterson looks on.
photo: kotaku

We carried homemade signs, chanted union slogans, banged makeshift drums, handed out flyers to passers-by and kept time with a tambourine. Marching in circles for hours in near-freezing weather proved surprisingly hard work. After my first full-day picket line, having walked almost 20,000 steps, I felt aching like I had just hit the gym for the first time since the pandemic began. (In fact, that particular milestone hasn’t happened yet.)

But the street told only half the truth. Back on Slack, dozens of my colleagues, many scattered across the country, self organized to get our message across to as many people as possible. Members of the negotiation committee chaired the GMG Union Twitter and created a website, kotaku started Twitch streamingothers created tiktoks and Instagram Posts and Storiesmade art, solicited reporters, planned media appearancesresearched the opposition, organized a GoFundMe to take care of the many workers who suddenly remain unpaid…

It was incredibly inspiring to see what about 80 individuals organized as a group could achieve. Feeling the mutual respect and caring of the workers, many of them have reawakened to their many similarities, which are demonstrated in words and deeds alike. Like I said, I think awareness has been raised. I know mine was.

A man speaks from behind a podium at a rally.

kotaku Author Jeremy Winslow gathers the crowd in what is probably the most iconic photo to emerge from the strike.
photo: kotaku

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday we went on strike. On Friday we planned a rally. Curiously, G/O announced the day before that due to late construction work, the office will close on Friday and everyone is to work from home. Regardless, the show had to go on, and with a stage, speakers, and passionate speakers championing our cause, we made a lot of noise.

A little bit in the talking part of the rally something wonderful happened. Our WGAE union negotiator, Arcy, rushed onto the stage to interrupt the speaker and make an announcement: the company intended to resume talks with the bargaining committee, effective immediately.

Direct action leads to results. If you don’t take anything else from this article, take this.

The rest is just more details. We haggled into the night, making great strides in bringing both sides together, but hit a dead end around 1am. They would not be moved by minimum wages and some other important demands. It looked like we would meet the pickets again on Monday, but as our negotiator reminded us, a lot can happen in 48 hours.

On Saturday, the union continued to plan its next escalation campaign – we had some interesting tactics in the works, including a field trip to Boston, where our parent company Great Hill Partners is based – but unexpected news broke around 10am on Sunday. The company offered a settlement package that largely met the key demands over which we were willing to continue to strike. The acceptance was conditional on the unit’s return on Monday.

You will have noticed that we have returned to work.

A group of people sit around a table in a conference room.

Called off from the rally, the GMG negotiating committee assembled at the offices of the Writers Guild of America, East, along with colleagues via conference call for an abrupt negotiating session that lasted until the following morning.
photo: kotaku

While I cannot speak for everyone in the Union, I think most of us are quite happy with the new treaty. You can read details of what we’ve won on the GMG Union website, but suffice it to say that we’ve just made significant strides in making G/O Media a better place for editorial creatives to do their work to do.

Never would have organized Gawker in 2015 when it joined the Writers Guild of America East form the first-ever union shop for digital media workers, we couldn’t have been so successful in standing up for our rights last week (and making a little history ourselves by launching the first indefinite digital media store strike). When the “free market” fails workers, unions fill the gaps.

So that’s what we did last week, a week in which we also saw the 100th (and counting) Starbucks location Application for union recognitionMajor League Baseball Player continue to negotiateREI workers in the New York area form the very first union of this retail chainHershey’s chocolate workers hold a union voteand The New York Times‘ technician announce the successful organization of their own ranks. I am pleased that we were able to share the emerging narrative of the resurgence of organized labor in the United States, and proud of my fellow editors across the department, whose solidarity was matched only by their discipline, camaraderie, and good humor.

And of course, thanks to those of you, our readers, who respected our digital picket line, sent words of encouragement and contributed to our (hugely successful!) strike fund. Thank you very much.

A woman poses with her dog outside the G/O Media offices in New York City.

An essential part of a successful union action is a line of cute dogs.
photo: kotaku

There’s an old union that says a win for one is a win for all. We hope that the events of the past week will inspire other workers, particularly in the gaming and media sectors, to take a closer look at the conditions in which they work and better understand the essential powers they possess when organizing to act collectively.

The gaming industry in particular is a highly abusive area, which has only been made clearer by last year’s disturbing revelations Ubisoft, Activision Blizzard, Riot games, and other large companies. Organizing work is a potentially powerful antidote to such ailments. As well as, kotaku will continue to show solidarity with pioneering groups such as ABK Workers’ Unionfighting to right the wrongs of those in power at Activision Blizzard and create a better future for all of its employees.

A better, more human games industry is possible, but bosses lack both the will and the drive to make it happen. But when workers across the industry recognize their common interests and start acting together, real progress would finally be within reach. So what are we waiting for? Tips on how to successfully strike a gaming website

Curtis Crabtree

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