Teen Vogue columnist preaches union fire to packed hall of Oregon unionists

Labor journalist Kim Kelly spoke to a sold out crowd of more than 300 unionists at the Oregon Labor Law Conference Jan. 31 in Northeast Portland.

The yearly gathering provides training on grievance handling and arbitration, collective bargaining, organizing workers, union governance, legislation, and worker rights. 

Kelly is a freelance writer and the labor columnist for Teen Vogue, and a columnist on class and labor at The New Republic. She also serves as a councilperson for the Writers Guild of America, East.

In 2015, the now 32-year-old led a successful organizing drive at VICE. The greatest barrier she faced in the union campaign, she said, wasn’t that co-workers were anti-union.

“They didn’t know what a union was,” Kelly said. 

Kelly said the good contract they were able to achieve after nine months of bargaining resulted in scores of other digital media shops organizing throughout the country.

“The high union density in digital media means there’s now an army of pro-labor, pro-union, class conscious people, writers, editors who are now a million times more sympathetic with labor stories, with worker stories, who are familiar with what it takes to organize a union and bargain a contract; and what it means to go on strike,” she told attendees. “I think we’re going to continue to see the ripple effects of that for decades to come.”

Kelly pointed to recent polls showing organized labor’s record-high approval rating with the public.

“Ten years ago, there were like, what, one or two labor journalists to cover things, maybe hidden away in the business section. Now it’s all over the place.”

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