Hamilton Nolan writes: Reporters, for all their flaws, tend to understand what’s happening in their own newsrooms. It’s their job to try to see things clearly. Often, what they see in their workplaces is low salaries, inept management and poor communication — ills that plague many workplaces across America. For more than two years now, online media outlets have been unionizing as a way to make our industry better. This week, we learned just how horrifying some rich people find the idea of employees coming together to improve their workplace.
Joe Ricketts, the founder of TD Ameritrade whose family owns the Chicago Cubs, is worth more than $2 billion. He is the owner of DNAinfo, a local news site that covered New York City and Chicago with unparalleled skill, as well as Gothamist, a network of city-oriented websites that DNAinfo bought this year. He is also a major right-wing political donor of rather flexible morality. During the last presidential primaries, Mr. Ricketts spent millions of dollars funding ads that portrayed Donald Trump as an untrustworthy, dangerous misogynist. Once Mr. Trump secured the nomination, Mr. Ricketts spent a million dollars to support him.
One might think that such flexibility would allow Mr. Ricketts to bend but not break when faced with every plutocrat’s worst nightmare: a few dozen modestly paid employees who collectively bargain for better working conditions.
Six months ago, reporters and editors at DNAinfo-Gothamist announced their intent to join the Writers Guild of America, East. This is the union that my colleagues and I at Gawker Media joined in 2015, and the union that has organized major online media companies like HuffPost, Vice Media, Slate and Thrillist in the past two years. In that short amount of time, unionized “new media” workers have won substantial raises, editorial protections and other improvements that writers at more mature companies take for granted. In defiance of the conventional wisdom that unions are outdated, this young, high-tech industry has been one of the most visible recent successes for organized labor in America.
The DNAinfo-Gothamist announcement sparked a zealous anti-union campaign: Management threatened employees by saying that Joe Ricketts might shut the whole place down if it unionized. Nevertheless, employees last week voted 25-2 in favor of unionization. And on Thursday, Mr. Ricketts abruptly shut the whole place down. [Continue reading…]