Secretly Group Union Ratifies Contract With Label Management: ‘A Long and Very Difficult Fight’

Membership of the Secretly Group Union has ratified a contract with the company’s managers, the union announced on Twitter Wednesday (Oct. 12).

Although the union — which represents workers at indie labels such as Secretly Canadian, Dead Oceans and Jagjaguwar — declared it “could not be prouder to be the first independent label group union,” it did not disclose contract terms. It described contract negotiations with management as a “long and very difficult fight.”

In a Twitter statement Wednesday, Dead Oceans said, in part: “This agreement marks a new chapter in Secretly’s ongoing commitment to our staff, to our workplace and to the core values we bring to artist and label partners every day.”

Secretly reps did not respond to a request for a comment, and an anonymous union spokesperson said they weren’t ready to discuss the terms of the contract, announced last night. “At the moment, we’re all exhausted from yesterday’s events,” the spokesperson said.

Working with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, or OPEIU Local 174, the Secretly employees formed their union in March 2021 and set a recognition deadline for management — which the company quickly agreed to do. Secretly Group artists include indie stars such as Phoebe Bridgers, Japanese Breakfast, Bon Iver and Angel Olsen, several of whom have expressed support for the union effort over the past year.

Last year, a Secretly Group Union rep told Billboard, “The enthusiasm for the culture in which music industry workers contribute can be weaponized against them and lead to exploitation and unfair treatment. . . . We absolutely hope this inspires others to unionize.”

The company, which employs 150 people, responded, “It’s always difficult to hear that there are people within the company who are unhappy . . . but we hope that this union effort speaks to their belief that our common ground — love for the work we do, and for the music and culture we share with the world — is truly and deeply shared.”

Unions are common for musicians, who belong to longstanding groups like the American Federation of Musicians, but they’re rare among record labels. After the Secretly union began its bargaining process last year, the group put out statements from workers to draw support for its cause. “I believe we can set a precedent for ourselves — and others working in the industry — that mandates fairer wages, inclusivity, and increased diversity, all in a collaborative workplace,” Michael Brennan, a designer for the company, said in an August 2021 union Instagram post.

Chris Eggertsen