Journalists should be able to unionize

Reporters and editors of online publications DNAInfo and Gothamist recently unionized in light of one publication buying out the other.

Instead of showing a willingness to work with a unionized staff, DNAInfo and Gothamist owner Joe Ricketts shut down both websites.

Though Ricketts claims that the shutting down of the sites was due to the increasing costs of the publication, the move reeks of retaliation against a newly unionized staff of writers.

Journalists should be able to join unions without fear of losing their jobs, and owners of publications should be willing to work with a unionized work force.

DNAInfo bought Gothamist a month before the writers and editors decided to join the Writers Guild of America East, according to an April 2017 New York Times article.

Given that DNAInfo had laid off a fourth of its editorial staff, the writers of DNAInfo and Gothamist thought unionizing was a way to protect their jobs.

Other reasons for unionizing included negotiating power and maintaining editorial independence from Ricketts in light of Gothamist deleting five articles critical of him.

Other companies like the Huffington Post, MTV News, Roots, Gizmodo Media Group, Vice and The Intercept also saw an influx of their writers unionizing.

However, they did not do what Ricketts did: shut down their websites to screw their writers and editors out of their jobs.

In response to unionization attempts, Ricketts subtly threatened them by saying “as long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business,” according to an Oct. 27 New York Times article.

Then, he shut down the websites, leaving 115 writers jobless.

The union representing writers and editors for local news outlets DNAinfo and Gothamist negotiated a deal stating that writers will receive three months’ pay with benefits and four weeks of severance even if they find employment elsewhere, and can use their work from both publications, according to a November article on Patch.com.

The shutdown of the Gothamist and DNAInfo prompted rallies of support from journalists and representatives of unions in City Hall Park, according to The Observer.

Participants of the rally rightfully called out the shutdown of the publications as a method of union-busting and suppression of local journalists.

However, such an act of union busting comes as no surprise for Ricketts.

According to an article in the November issue of Jacobin Magazine, right-wing billionaire Joe Ricketts has a long history of piling money into anti-union causes and campaigns, including that of Gov. Scott Walker, who turned Wisconsin into a “right to work” state.

In his personal blog, Ricketts wrote a piece named “Why I’m Against Unions At Businesses I Create.”

“I believe unions promote a corrosive us-against-them dynamic that destroys the esprit de corps businesses need to succeed,” Ricketts wrote. “That corrosive dynamic makes no sense in my mind where an entrepreneur is staking his capital on a business that is providing jobs and promoting innovation.”

Though he acknowledged in his post that labor unions serve an important purpose “balancing power between ownership and labor,” his refusal to work with a unionized workforce shows that he is unwilling to maintain such a balance if it does not work in his favor. This recent decision to shut down the publications only adds to his gross anti-worker history.

The writers and editors of DNAInfo and Gothamist agreed to unionize to protect their rights in the workplace.

In response, Ricketts shut down both publications, leaving them jobless and setting a dangerous precedent for other journalists seeking to join labor unions.

Journalists should be able to unionize without fear of retaliation and owners of publications should be willing to work with a unionized workforce.

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