Vox Media hiring data reveal massive shift away from W4 workers post-unionization

2 weeks ago by Joshua Fruhlinger in Features

Today, new media giant Vox Media ($VOXMEDIA) is facing a walkout. Vox Union workers are demanding raises that match inflation rates, fair severance packages, and other unmet management promises.

Hiring data from Vox reveals a curious — and potentially damning — trend. On the very date that Vox Media workers announced that they were seeking to join a union, that is, November 17, 2017, the company practically shut the door on hiring for full-time workers.

When filtering out Vox Media job listings that do not contain the terms "contract", "part-time", and "freelance", we can see a clear peak on the date in question, followed by a more-than 50% drop within months. Full-time openings haven't completely recovered since that date at Vox Media.

Freelance and contract openings were also relatively non-existent on Vox Media's careers site. That is, until somewhat recently, when they spiked in early 2019. The Vox Media Union was recognized in January 2018.

These dates and hiring trends could be coincidences. But as is common knowledge — and mentioned in the Vox Union's own FAQ — people who are 1099 employees are not eligible to join the union due to labor laws. Typically, 1099 workers are those who are part-time, freelance, and contract workers.

In other words, since the Vox Union was organized, the company has upped its 1099 hiring and decreased its W2 openings. Coincidence? Maybe.

Update: Melissa Bell, Vox Media's publisher, reached out to us with this statement. She mentions that "an analysis solely based on a scraping of open roles on our website is not a sufficient measurement of full-time hires versus part-time and/or contractor roles" and that the company continues to hire full-time staffers. To be clear, and as can be seen above, our story does not make any statements to suggest that Vox is not hiring full-time workers.

To be absolutely clear, the observed drop in job listings that do not contain the terms "contract", "freelance", or "part-time" after November 17, 2017 is directly from Vox's own careers website.

As always, we report based on publicly available information in order to spot trends. In this case, we looked at how Vox has been publicly tagging its job listings with clear "part-time", "contract", and "freelance" nomenclature in its titles. That increase in language is reflected in the data. We did not alter it.

It's possible Vox didn't make the part-time nature of certain positions clear in the past.

In the interest of transparency, we include Melissa's statement below.

"Dear Joshua,

"We are disappointed that you did not ask for a comment on your data analysis. Had you done so, we would have informed you that (1) an analysis solely based on a scraping of open roles on our website is not a sufficient measurement of full-time hires versus part-time and/or contractor roles; (2) we continue to actively hire full-time employees and we have not shifted to offering more part-time and contract roles; (3) we have made no changes to our hiring plans since the formation of the Vox Media Union and (4) we hired more than 150 full-time employees in 2018, and expect to hire about the same number this year.

"We respectfully ask for a correction to your piece.

"Regards,

"Melissa Bell | Publisher, Vox Media
"New York City, NY

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Joshua Fruhlinger

Joshua has been writing about technology, lifestyle, and business for over 20 years. He's one of the original writers and editors for Engadget, and still writes a...

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