I was pacing around the parking lot of the dayjob I was about to quit with my cell phone to my ear. The voice coming through the speaker was a managing editor trying to sign me to a full-time-equivalent freelance contract.
Permalance, in industry parlance: a job’s worth of work for a job’s worth of pay, with no actual employment promised or implied.
“So far only one writer has managed to become an employee with benefits. So I’m not going to say it’s likely,” he told me. “But if you come in and kick ass for us, it is possible.”
It was October 2012, just three years and 10 months after I’d started an indie blog from nothing. I’d built an audience, leveraged that audience into small freelance gigs, and those small opportunities into this big one. I’d hustled, I’d grinded, I’d bet on myself again and again—and every single bet had come up Schalter.
I said yes.
I kicked ass.
I did not become a full-time employee with benefits.
The company got sold. The vision changed. My twice-a-month paycheck got diverted through a Byzantine invoicing system that could take anywhere from one day to seven weeks to hit my account, with everyone involved insisting they were powerless to do anything about it. It made it impossible to plan, budget, manage emergencies, keep up with the growing costs my growing kids were incurring.
I rattled cages. I ruffled feathers. Even as I refused to take “it just works like that” for an answer, waves of part- and full-time permalancers were being not-offered contract renewals, i.e. laid off. I wrote as well and fast as anybody, which made me hard to get rid of. But eventually, I rattled one too many cages one too many times.
Officially, my role was replaced with Snapchat memes. Unofficially, nobody I talked to could believe any explanation besides the higher-ups deciding my refusal to accept irregular payment of my regular paycheck made me more trouble than I was worth.
The writers, reporters, artists, podcasters, social media specialists, videographers, and editors of Gizmodo
, and The Root,
organized under the Writers Guild of America, East, all went AFK to protest G/O Media’s refusal to negotiate in good faith
Their demands are no more outrageous than mine was: That management not remove guarantees their current health care and benefits will continue, more than just the lowest pay band of employees will get raises amidst the significant inflation of our lifetimes, the work-from-home flexibility that’s becoming standard for office work everywhere, funding for formal DEI efforts, and protection against forced relocations.
With the power of collective action, GMG Union can insist on these baseline-level demands. And they don’t have to be afraid of ruffling feathers in the process of getting them: