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Mailchimp cancels Pineapple Avenue Studios podcast after refusing to work with union producers

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That is Sizzling PodThe Verge’s publication about podcasting and the audio business. Enroll here for extra.

Mailchimp, one of many podcast business’s best-known sponsors, not too long ago reached out to Pineapple Avenue Studios about making a brand new present. Pineapple and Mailchimp first collaborated in 2019, producing narrative advertisements for Mailchimp and branded collection. So given their longstanding relationship, Pineapple Avenue workers had been shocked when administration at their father or mother firm, the radio big Audacy, knowledgeable them at a gathering on October third that the brand new Mailchimp contract required all work on the collection to be carried out by non-union employees.

Most of the producers who labored on Mailchimp initiatives previously, or would tackle a brand new branded collection, had been within the union. Based on staffers current on the assembly, administration gave them an ultimatum: signal a aspect settlement permitting the corporate to rent non-union contractors, or Mailchimp walks not solely from the brand new collection, however from the advertisements and present present as effectively. Two days later at a follow-up assembly, Audacy reiterated that with out the settlement, it could lose Mailchimp as a shopper. However making a path across the union would defeat the purpose of organizing within the first place. The union refused to signal, and Mailchimp pulled its enterprise.

Audacy declined to touch upon the assembly or contract negotiations. When Sizzling Pod reached out to Mailchimp, firm spokesperson Christina Scavone stated there have been a wide range of components contributing to the cancellation. She didn’t deny that the disagreement over union labor was one among them.

It’s a stunning flip of occasions contemplating their historical past — however loyalty apart, Mailchimp, Pineapple Avenue, and the entire business have modified

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“We’ve labored with Pineapple Avenue Media over the previous few years and all the time valued its contributions; nevertheless, for varied enterprise and inventive causes, we determined to not transfer ahead with this present,” Scavone stated in an announcement. “Intuit Mailchimp has and continues to proudly work with unions throughout completely different areas of our enterprise, and we’re consistently evaluating alternatives to supply nice content material.”

It’s a stunning flip of occasions contemplating Mailchimp and Pineapple Avenue’s historical past. However loyalty apart, Mailchimp, Pineapple Avenue, and the entire business have modified. Each firms so related to the podcast growth had been snatched up by bigger firms when instances had been good — Pineapple Avenue by Audacy in 2019 and Mailchimp by monetary software program firm Intuit in 2021. The audio business, as soon as flush with cash, began contracting in 2022, leaving Audacy in a precarious financial position. Following the lead of employees at studios like Gimlet and iHeartMedia Podcasts, Pineapple Street staff unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East final fall, claiming pay cuts and insufficient wages beneath Audacy’s administration. (Disclosure: The Verge’s editorial workers can also be unionized with the Writers Guild of America, East.)

In a letter despatched to Intuit and Mailchimp on Monday, the union claimed that the choice to cancel their partnership over the labor dispute seems to be “unethical and unlawful.” “As we’re certain you’re conscious, the Nationwide Labor Relations Act protects union actions and prevents employers from discriminating towards staff or job candidates primarily based on union standing or sympathies,” the letter says.

Nonetheless, Mailchimp is a shopper, not an employer. Scott Witlin, a associate at Barnes and Thornburg who focuses on labor legislation within the leisure business, says that Mailchimp is inside their rights to make such a requirement. “An organization can terminate a contract with one other firm as a result of that subcontractor’s staff have unionized, and it’s not a violation of the legislation,” Witlin stated. 

As for the “why,” Scavone declined to touch upon Mailchimp’s demand. However Witlin stated that when firms take such a stance, it’s as a result of they don’t need to get caught up in one other firm’s union struggle. “Persons are afraid that there shall be a strike or a lockout or another disruption for the work they usually don’t need to have that occur with their merchandise,” he stated.

Within the yr since forming the union, Pineapple Avenue staffers have but to stage any sort of work stoppage. Producer Emerald O’Brien, who labored on Going Via It, a Mailchimp branded present that wrapped its fourth season in July, stated the union by no means got here up as a problem previous to the assembly with administration.

“At no level did Intuit Mailchimp specific any points with that,” O’Brien stated. “I don’t know what they suppose goes to occur utilizing union labor.”

Audacy’s lawyer instructed staffers that, with out the aspect settlement, “there shall be downstream penalties, similar to operational reductions.” Staffers understood this to imply layoffs

With Mailchimp out of the image, the argument between Audacy and Pineapple Avenue’s union is just not achieved. Employees current on the October assembly with administration say that Audacy lawyer Ron Allen instructed staffers that if the union didn’t conform to the aspect settlement — which might have utilized to any shopper that demanded non-union labor, not simply Mailchimp — that “there shall be downstream penalties, similar to operational reductions.” Staffers understood this to imply layoffs.

On Thursday, the union filed a cost with the Nationwide Labor Relations Board on Thursday alleging that Audacy “negotiated in dangerous religion bargaining in negotiation periods … by participating in threatening ways and floor bargaining.” Audacy declined to touch upon the labor cost.

As for Mailchimp’s involvement in future podcasting initiatives, the corporate’s choices could also be restricted as union outlets change into the norm. The business contraction has resulted in additional studios unionizing as employees search better protections towards layoffs or, at the very least, a greater severance bundle within the occasion layoffs occur anyway. Crooked Media unionized with the WGAE in February, as did Pushkin Industries final month.

“Mailchimp has been a fantastic Twenty first-century patron of the humanities,” stated Pineapple Avenue producer Sophie Bridges. “It will be vastly disappointing for that to cease being the case.”

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