When you hear companies talk about how great their salaries are these days, it can make you wonder why their workers ever wanted to unionize in the first place.

The Wall Street Journal today has a story that looks at the ongoing movement to unionize digital media outlets in the context of “Will this scare off investors?” The story mentions the recent move to unionize by a small number of editorial employees at Vice—a request that was agreed to by the company and its CEO, Shane Smith. The story includes this paragraph for context:

In an application for a tax credit for building its new headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., Vice stated that it paid editorial writers an average wage of $45,000 in 2012. Video production and postproduction employees received an average wage of $60,000. Creative and design employees were paid $70,000 on average. A person familiar with the matter says that salaries have since gone up to an average of just under $70,000 for nonmanagement employees.

That Vice salary breakdown was first published here. It clearly showed what many Vice employees had already told us: writers were poorly paid and at the very bottom of the company salary hierarchy.

But wait—what about this improvement? A “person familiar with the matter”—meaning a Vice spokesman who does not want to go on the record—says that “salaries have since gone up to an average of just under $70,000 for nonmanagement employees.” The exact same “person familiar with the matter” said the exact same thing to the Wall Street Journal when the Vice union news was first reported. The implication of this factoid is: sure, pay was low in the past, but those numbers are out of date, and pay is much improved now.

But please, dear reader, note the rhetorical ju-jitsu being employed here. The one official source we have for Vice salaries, a document submitted to the government, says that “written editorial” staffers had a $45K average salary in 2013. These are the very employees who, predictably, have now unionized. Vice Media would like to insinuate to you that their conditions have drastically improved. So does the company simply share their current editorial salary averages on the record? No, they do not. What they do instead is to offer, anonymously, a purported salary average “for nonmanagement employees”—a group that includes finance people and sales people and marketing people and every other kind of employee from every other department. All of whom we already know are better paid than editorial staffers!

Gee—you say that if you average together all the salaries for all the employees from better-paid departments, you get a number higher than what editorial employees were paid? Thank you for that thoroughly uninsightful (but successfully misleading) fact.

Which is all to say: no one should be surprised that Vice writers feel they deserve better pay.

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