The unionized staff members at the sports podcaster The Ringer are calling on the Spotify-owned company to improve pay and offer better promotional opportunities. The Writers Guild of America-East local says at its last bargaining session with management it asked The Ringer for yearly across-the-board pay increases and the creation of base salary minimums for specific positions.
“Too many of our members have said they struggle to cover basic living expenses from month to month, and too many of our members say that they have received little to no salary increases even as they take on more responsibility,” The Guild announced in a letter to management. It said The Ringer’s policy that restricts work outside the company has only made the situation worse. The union also said that its request for an across-the-board pay hike – it didn’t make public how much it is seeking – factors in where staff is located. “Our suggested union salary minimums are based on industry standards and have been calculated to ensure that employees can live in major cities like New York and Los Angeles, where the majority of The Ringer staff resides,” the union said in the letter..
The union’s demands are likely emboldened by the fact The Ringer is now owned by Spotify, which acquired the company in a $200 million deal earlier this year. The letter, which was signed by 98% of The Ringer’s union members, was presented to management at their last bargaining session. In a post on Twitter, the union said its goal “to ensure that everyone who is responsible for The Ringer’s great writing, graphics, podcasts, and videos is treated with respect, given equal opportunities for advancement, and, most crucially, paid fairly.”
As the two sides work toward a first union contract agreement, The Ringer has so far resisted establishing set pay based on a position. The union countered that opens the door to “inequality and bias” in how employees are paid.
In June after coming under fire for having too few employees and podcast guests of color, company founder Bill Simmons conceded The Ringer “fell short” on diversity goals and vowed to do better. The union had said there were no African-American editors at The Ringer Podcast Network and there were no black writers assigned to the NBA or NFL beats. It also said, by its tally, 86% of all speakers on The Ringer Podcast Network during 2019 were white.
Against that backdrop, the union said events have “offered a mandate for reflection on inequalities” in the world overall, and while The Ringer has agreed to focus more on diversity when making hiring decisions it is pushing the company to do more. “Members of underrepresented groups are less likely to have financial safety nets and more likely to turn down low-paid positions,” they said, saying guaranteed annual pay hikes and pathways to promotions will help diversify The Ringer’s employee ranks.
Meantime, another Spotify-owned company is also in the middle of its first union contract negotiations. Gimlet Media, which also formed a local under the Writers Guild of America-East, has been holding virtual bargaining sessions with management this summer as it too works on reaching a deal.